the Spirit Watch

The New World Translation: God's Word?

By Mike Spencer, Spiritwatch Ministries

What is the New World Translation? The New World Translation is a Bible version prepared, printed, and distributed by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, Inc. of Brooklyn, New York.  It was produced in stages between 1950 and 1960.  The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, Inc. is the official publishing organ of the Jehovah’s Witness (JW) religious sect.  Since its final completion in 1960, the New World Translation has been rendered into dozens of languages for use by Jehovah’s Witnesses worldwide.  While early editions of the New World Translation were printed with a bright green cover, more recent editions have a black or dark brown cover, making them look more like ordinary Bibles.  The translation has been revised three times: once in 1969, once in 1970, and again in 1984.  In 1984 the Watchtower Society produced a large print study edition.  It contains center column references, footnotes, and appendices, most of which seem to have been expressly designed to argue in favor of the Jehovah’s Witness sect’s controversial theological perspectives on a variety of issues. 

All Jehovah’s Witnesses, beginning with their earliest involvement in the Jehovah’s Witness sect, are trained to regard the elite Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses as God’s authorized representatives on Earth.  The Governing Body is the ruling council of the Jehovah’s Witness sect.  It numbers about a dozen men and is loosely based on the Twelve Apostles of the New Testament (1).  Since the Governing Body and the Watchtower Society are (according to their own claim) “God’s channel” of communication, every piece of literature printed on the Watchtower Society’s printing presses (including the New World Translation of the Bible) is regarded by all loyal Jehovah’s Witnesses as “spiritual food” from “the hand of Jehovah" (2).  To question, doubt, or oppose the New World Translation is, in the mind of a Jehovah’s Witness, tantamount to opposing God. For more information on how the Society boldly claims this authority to interpret the Bible as it sees fit, click here.

What motivated the Jehovah’s Witness leadership to produce the New World Translation? The Jehovah’s Witness sect’s leadership, who published the New Testament portion of their New World Translation in 1950, were surprisingly candid about their reasons for doing so.  I invite the discerning reader to study carefully the following comments, which appeared in their Watchtower magazine dated 9 /15 /1950, p.314.  I have taken the liberty of highlighting those passages that are especially worthy of notice:

            Preparing and releasing the “New World Translation”

          We acknowledge our debt to all the Bible versions which we have used in attaining to what truth of God’s Word we enjoy today.  We do not discourage the use of any of these Bible versions, but shall ourselves go on making suitable use of them.  However, during all our years of using these versions down to the latest of them, we have found them defective.  In one or another vital respect they are inconsistent and unsatisfactory, infected with religious traditions or worldly philosophy and hence not in harmony with the sacred truths which Jehovah God has restored to his devoted people who call upon his name and seek to serve him with one accord.  Especially has this been true in the case of the Christian Greek Scriptures [the New Testament], which throw light and place proper interpretation upon the ancient Hebrew Scriptures.  More and more the need has been felt for a translation in modern speech, in harmony with revealed truth, and yet furnishing us the basis for gaining further truth by faithfully presenting the sense of the original writings; a translation just as understandable to modern readers as the original writings of Christ’s disciples were understandable to the simple, plain, common, lowly readers of their day.  Jesus reminded us that our heavenly Father knows the needs of his children before they ever ask him.  How has he [Jehovah] made provision for us in this need which we now keenly feel? (3)

The Watchtower article then proceeds to describe the rapid production and dissemination of the New World Translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures (the Jehovah’s Witness New Testament), implying, of course, that this remarkable event was “Jehovah’s provision” for their keenly felt need.

In the above Watchtower article note carefully how the writer characterizes all other Bible translations as “not in harmony with the sacred truths which Jehovah God has restored to his devoted people.”  To put it plainly, the writer is saying that all other translations are unsatisfactory because they do not agree with the Jehovah’s Witness sect’s alleged “restored sacred truths”.  “Sacred truths” in the above Watchtower article is merely a buzzword for the doctrinal system of the Jehovah’s Witness sect; a doctrinal system that God has [allegedly] restored to his people (the Jehovah’s Witnesses) in these latter days through the agency of the Jehovah’s Witness leadership (“God’s channel” of communication).

Notice also, in the above Watchtower article, how the writer describes the Jehovah’s Witnesses need for a Bible translation “in harmony with revealed truth.”  In other words, the Jehovah’s Witness leadership needed a Bible translation that harmonized with their [alleged] “revelations”.  In view of these clear statements in the Jehovah’s Witness sect’s own Watchtower magazine, can anyone doubt that this is the real reason why the New World Translation was produced?

                              Consider these two important truths about the art of Bible translation:

  1. Accurately translating the entire Bible from the original ancient Greek, ancient Hebrew, and ancient Aramaic is a task requiring a considerable degree of technical expertise.  It is a job for bona fide Greek and Hebrew scholars.  It is not a job for amateurs or dilettantes armed with a lexicon and having little real understanding of the subtleties of Greek and Hebrew grammar.

  2. Having an accurate translation of the Bible is very important since the Bible is the only infallible means we have for obtaining detailed information about God and his will for our lives. Scripture defines our belief, our practice and therefore, how we will live.

Four red flags of warning must be raised about the New World Translation:

  1. The New World Translation is entirely the product of one religious sect.  Translations produced by one individual or one sect should always be approached with caution.  Translations produced by teams of scholars representing a diversity of theological perspectives are safer.  The diverse theology of the translators in such cases forms a built-in safeguard against any one sect or individual smuggling (either deliberately or inadvertently) their own doctrinal bias into the translation.  The New International Version and the New American Standard Bible are good examples of “safe” translations (i.e. ones produced by theologically diverse teams of highly competent Greek and Hebrew scholars).

  2. The Watchtower leadership has repeatedly refused to divulge the names and/or academic qualifications of the people within their organization who produced the New World Translation (4). Common sense should tell anyone that it is not wise to trust a Bible translation produced by totally anonymous translators, whatever might be their stated reasons for wishing to remain anonymous.  How are we to know whether they have the necessary expertise to produce an accurate translation?  Let me illustrate.  Suppose your ten-year-old son needs a kidney transplant.  Suppose that a man you have never met before approaches you, claiming to be a surgeon, and offers to perform the operation free of charge.  Yet your repeated requests to know this man’s name, to find out whether or not he graduated from medical school, or to learn whether he is a member of the American Medical Association are politely rebuffed.  The “surgeon,” allegedly because he is extremely humble and wishes to receive no glory or credit for his good deeds, simply refuses reveal this information about himself.  Would you allow this man to operate on your son?  If you would not trust a loved ones mortal life to an anonymous (possibly unqualified) “surgeon”, why would you trust your eternal destiny to a committee of anonymous (possibly unqualified) Bible translators?

  3. Numerous qualified Greek scholars of international renown have voiced serious reservations about the New World Translation.  Dr. Bruce Metzger of Princeton University (arguably the world’s foremost living Greek scholar) calls many of the New World Translation’s renderings “erroneous" (5).  Dr. Julius R. Mantey (co-author of A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament and A Hellenistic Greek Reader) called it “a shocking mistranslation”(6).  Dr Robert Countess concluded, in his PhD dissertation on the New World Translation,  “it [the New World Translation] must be viewed as a radically biased piece of work.  At some points it is actually dishonest" (7).

  4. As far as we have been able to determine, no baptized Jehovah’s Witness has ever been awarded a post-graduate academic degree by an accredited institution in the field of Biblical Greek or Hebrew.  This is rather startling in a religious sect of approximately six million people who pride themselves on being zealous students of the Bible.  One would be hard pressed to find any Christian group of similar size that could not boast of at least a half-dozen or so persons with advanced academic degrees in fields relating to Biblical languages.  It is, of course, possible that there are Jehovah’s Witnesses with advanced degrees in Greek and Hebrew that we do not know about.  If you know of any such persons please contact us immediately and we will gladly post a correction (as soon as we are able to verify their degrees by contacting the academic institution in question.)

Comparison of Scholarly Qualifications Of NWT / NASB Translators

Although the Jehovah’s Witness leadership desperately wants the names of the New World Translation’s translators to remain unknown (for reasons that shall soon become clear), the names have, in fact, been revealed by former high- ranking members of the Jehovah’s Witness sect (8).   Are these men qualified to correct the [allegedly] defective, inconsistent, and unsatisfactory translations produced by other Bible translators?  Listed below (in the right-hand column) are the names and academic qualifications of the translators who produced the New World Translation.  As a comparison, the names and credentials of the translators of the New American Standard Bible are listed in the left-hand column.  We invite the discerning reader to judge for himself which English translation (the NASB or the New World Translation) is more likely to accurately represent the meaning of the original Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic of the Bible.

The NASB Translation Committee

The New American Standard Bible was produced by a diverse team of 40 translators, each with earned doctorates in the field of Biblical languages.  Their names are as follows:  (9)

Dr. Peter Ahn

Dr. Warren Allen

Dr. Gleason Archer

Dr. Herman Austel

Dr. Kenneth Lee Barker

Dr. Fred Bush

Dr. David L. Cooper

Dr. Richard W. Cramer

Dr. Edward R. Daglish

Dr. Charles Lee Feinberg

Dr. Harvey Finley

Dr. Paul Gray

Dr. George Giacumakis

Dr. Edward F. Harrison

Dr. John Hartley

Dr. F.B. Huey, Jr.

Dr. Charles Isbell

Dr. David W. Kerr

Dr. William L. Lane

Dr. Timothy Lin

Dr. Oscar Lowry

Dr. Elmer Martens

Dr. Henry R. Moeller

Dr. Reuben A. Olsen

Dr. J. Barton Payne

Dr. Walter Penner

Dr. John Rea

Dr. W.L. Reed

Dr. Robert N. Schaper

Dr. Moises Silva

Dr. Ralph L. Smith

Dr. Merrill C. Tenney

Dr Robert L. Thomas

Dr. George Townsend

Dr. Bruce Waltke

Dr. Lowell C. Wendt

Dr. William C. Williams

Dr. Herbert M. Wolf

Dr. Kenneth Wuest

Dr. Fred Young


The New World Translation Committee

The New World Translation committee consisted of four members of the Jehovah’s Witness religious sect.  Their names and scholarly qualifications are as follows: (10)

Nathan Knorr: President of the Watchtower Society (no academic training in any Biblical language)

Fred Franz: (no academic degree in any Biblical language, though he did study Greek for two years at the University of Cincinnati)

Albert Schroeder: (no academic training in any Biblical language)

George Gangas: (no academic training in any Biblical language)


Three Examples Of NWT Alterations Of Biblical Text For Doctrinal Purposes

It is our belief that the New World Translation is a doctrinally driven translation.  By this we mean that the people who produced it were motivated primarily by the desire to render the text of the Bible in such a way as to make it agree with the doctrinal teachings of the Jehovah’s Witness religious sect (11).  It is also our belief that the basic principles of Greek grammar, the overwhelming consensus of Greek language scholarship, and the established scholarly principles for evaluating Biblical manuscript evidence have been consistently ignored by the NWT translators whenever the rigorous application of the same would result in a rendering of the Biblical text that would contradict Jehovah’s Witness theology.  Consider the following three examples.  In each case the New World Translation deviates significantly from not only two major, scholarly, modern translations, but also two of the Watchtower’s own interlinear Greek-English translations of the New Testament text.

Example #1 : (words in bold type are my emphasis)

And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body.  (Rom. 8:23, NASB)

Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. (Rom. 8:23, NIV)

… the release by ransom of the body of us. (Rom. 8:23, The Kingdom Interlinear Translation of the Greek Scriptures)

… the redemption of the body of us. (Rom. 8:23, The Emphatic Diaglott)

… the release from our bodies by ransom. (Rom. 8:23, The New World Translation)


In the above passage Paul clearly states that he earnestly expected his body to be redeemed.  Yet the Jehovah’s Witness translators totally reverse the meaning of the text by deleting the word “of” and inserting the word “from” in its place.  Why?  Because the official teaching of the JW leadership is that all members of the “faithful slave” class (Paul included) will be restored to life as invisible “spirit beings”.  Paul’s physical body (according to JW theology) will never be redeemed (i.e. resurrected) by God.  Yet it is clear in Romans 8:23 that the redemption of (and not from) the body is the correct translation. Why is this, you ask? 

First, a Greek noun in the genitive case (such as “the body” in Romans 8:23) following this particular Greek word for redemption (apolutrosin) is invariably the object of the redemption.  See, for example, Ephesians 1:14 where Paul uses the identical linguistic construction (apolutrosin followed by a genitive case noun) to refer to “the redemption of the purchased possession” (12).  Second, in the immediate context of Romans 8:23 Paul is describing the body’s redemption as an integral part of God’s redemption of the material world from its bondage to the principle of death and decay.  Since the world will not be “ransomed away” from its body (i.e. its physicality), there is no reason to suppose that Paul (and other early Christians) expected to be “ransomed away” from their physical bodies either (13).  Third, two of the publications printed by the Watchtower Society on its own printing presses (the Emphatic Diaglott and The Kingdom Interlinear Translation) agree with the NASB and the NIV in opposition to the New World Translation!  Jesus said, “a house divided against itself cannot stand” (Mk. 3:25).  The Jehovah’s Witnesses own testimony about Romans 8:23 is divided against itself.  It cannot stand.

Example #2: (words in bold type are my emphasis)

And this is eternal life, that they may know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom Thou hast sent. (John 17:3, NASB)

Now this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. (John 17:3, NIV)

But this is the everlasting life in order that they may be knowing you the only true God and Jesus Christ whom you sent forth.  (John 17:3, The Kingdom Interlinear Translation of the Greek Scriptures)

And this is the age-lasting life, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent. (John 17:3, The Emphatic Diaglott)

This means everlasting life, their taking in knowledge of you, the only true God, and of the one whom you sent forth, Jesus Christ.  (John 17:3, The New World Translation)


In John 17:3 the New World Translation reads “this means everlasting life, their taking in knowledge of you, the only true God, and of the one whom you sent forth, Jesus Christ.”  Yet a literal rendering of the Greek in this passage reads “this is eternal life, that they might know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you sent.”  In the Watchtower Society’s rendering, the path to eternal life is through human effort, i.e. a continuous, lifelong process of “taking in knowledge” about God and Christ (using only approved Watchtower study materials, of course!)(14).  

In the correct, literal rendering of this text, however, eternal life is based upon knowing God and Christ, i.e. in an intimate, personal way.  It is a sad fact, but a fact nevertheless, that Jehovah’s Witnesses know nothing of the intimate communion with their Creator enjoyed by true Christians.  Sadly, Jehovah’s Witnesses are even warned by their leaders not to be too “familiar” with Jehovah in their prayers, lest they incur his displeasure (15)!  Interestingly, the introduction to the 1984 study edition of the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures states, “paraphrases of the Scriptures are not offered" (16).  Yet in this particular case the JW translators clearly violate their own stated policy.  They do offer us an ungrammatical and inaccurate paraphrase in John 17:3.  Why?  Could this “translation” be a clever ploy by JW leaders to scare JWs at the local level into regularly attending Watchtower magazine study sessions at their local Kingdom Halls?  You decide.

Example #3: (words in bold type are my emphasis)

Knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance.  It is the Lord Christ whom you serve (Colossians 3:24, NASB)

Since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward.  It is the Lord Christ you are serving. (Colossians 3:24, NIV)

having known that you will receive back the gift back in exchange of the inheritance from Lord; be you slaving to the Lord Christ (Colossians 3:24, The Kingdom Interlinear Translation of the Greek Scriptures)

Knowing that from the Lord you will receive the recompense of the inheritance, for you serve anointed Lord (Colossians 3:24, The Emphatic Diaglott)

For you know that it is from Jehovah you will receive the due reward of the inheritance, slave for the Master Christ. (Colossians 3:24, New World Translation)


In over 200 places in the New Testament (the exact number is 231) the New World Translation deletes the word “Lord” (Gk: kurios) or “God” (Gk: theos) from the Biblical text and inserts the proper name “Jehovah” in its place.  Why?  Because the Jehovah’s Witness sect places great emphasis on the regular and frequent use of God’s proper name.  The regular use of the name “Jehovah” is said by Jehovah’s Witnesses to be one of the identifying marks of the true Christian faith.  But this extraordinary claim can hardly be supported if no New Testament writer uses the name “Jehovah” even once.  The fact of the matter is that no ancient New Testament manuscript or manuscript fragment has ever been found that contains the proper name “Jehovah”. 

Space does not permit a detailed look at the lengthy and involved arguments advanced by the JW leadership to justify its wholesale alteration of the Biblical text.  We will content ourselves with a brief outline of their arguments and a brief refutation of the same (17). 

JW Arguments Justifying Their Insertion Of “Jehovah” Into The New Testament Text

Argument #1: The New Testament contains frequent quotes from the LXX (The Septuagint; an early Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament).

Argument #2: Ancient manuscripts of the LXX had the name “Jehovah” either in a transliteration or in Ancient Hebrew characters (YHWH) preserved in the text.

Argument #3: When quoting from the LXX, the New Testament writers would always have preserved the divine name, since using substitutes (such as “God” or “Lord”) for the divine name is an unscriptural practice.

Argument #4: At some point in the second or third centuries A.D. all references to the divine name must have been removed from the text of the New Testament by the scribes.

Argument #5:  Therefore, when the NWT translators insert “Jehovah” into the New Testament text in place of “God” or “Lord” they are not really changing the Bible, as some allege.  They are really only restoring what the text must have originally said before it was altered by the scribes in the early centuries A.D.

Refutation of These Watchtower Arguments Concerning These Insertions

Argument #1: This is true.  The New Testament writers do indeed frequently quote from the LXX.

Argument #2: This is a half-truth.  What the JW leadership doesn’t tell you is that only some copies of the LXX Old Testament preserve the word “Jehovah”.  The vast majority of surviving LXX manuscripts, however, use “Lord” (Gk. kurios) to translate the divine name.  By failing to mention this important fact the JW leaders create the false impression that all ancient LXX manuscripts contain the name “Jehovah,” when in fact very few of them did.

Argument #3: Is using a substitute (such as “God” or Lord”) in place of the divine name really an “unscriptural” practice, as JWs claim?  Compare Psalm 53 with Psalm 14.  These two psalms are virtually identical except for the fact that in Psalm 53 the word “God” (Heb. Elohim) is substituted in place of the word “Jehovah” (Heb. YHWH) four times.  Note also how in Jesus’ parable of the prodigal son (Lk. 15:21), Jesus has the son saying, “I have sinned against heaven…” (using the word “heaven” as a substitute for the divine name).  Note also Jesus’ statement in Matthew 26:64 about the Son of man “sitting at the right hand of Power.”  Here Jesus uses the word “Power” as a substitute for the divine name.  If using substitutes for the divine name is an unscriptural practice (as JW leaders claim) we must then logically accuse Jesus himself of being “unscriptural”.  Do we really wish to do that?

Argument #4: This bold JW assertion essentially amounts to an unproved “conspiracy theory” for which there is no supporting evidence.  The fact remains that no ancient manuscript or manuscript fragment of any portion of the New Testament has ever been found that contains the name “Jehovah”.

Argument #5: Is it wise to utterly reject the unanimous testimony of over 5000 ancient New Testament manuscripts?  Is it wise to make over 200 alterations in the Biblical text solely on the strength of an unproven, modern-day conspiracy theory?  Yet this is precisely what JW translators have done.  Finally, it should be pointed out that the NWT frequently inserts the name “Jehovah” into the New Testament text even in places where there is no direct quotation of the LXX Old Testament involved.  Even if all of the JW leadership’s arguments about the New Testament’s quoting from the LXX were valid, it would still not justify the NWT translators’ insertion of “Jehovah” into such texts as Colossians 3:24 and Romans 14:6-8.

Refuting Three Basic Arguments Of Witnesses Defending The New World Translation.

JWs regularly use three basic arguments in support of their own Bible translation.  Let us consider these arguments one at a time.

Answer: Although the Lockman Foundation (publisher of the NASB) does not directly list the names of their translators in the Bibles they print, they do make these names available on request.  Just write (or e-mail) the Lockman Foundation for this information.  They will be glad to provide it (18)!

Answer:  Not all Bible translations are created equal.  There are quite literally hundreds of English-language translations of the New Testament alone (some estimates put the number as high as 1000!).  The vast majority of these are obscure translations done by people who were poorly qualified to translate the Bible.  Many of these translators were cultists, seeking to impart their own doctrinal slant on the Bible.  Given this diverse smorgasbord of Bible versions to choose from, it is not at all surprising that the JW translators have frequently been able to find other translations to quote in support of their own controversial renderings of the Biblical text.  But the real question we ought to be asking is not “has somebody else ever translated it this way, too” but rather “is this obscure translator I’m quoting really a reputable Greek or Hebrew scholar?” Strangely, JWs never seem to ask the latter question.  Perhaps they have learned from experience that it doesn’t pay to examine their sources too closely (19)!

·        JW Argument #3:  “Many scholars endorse the New World Translation.”  Answer:  Do they really?  Examine these alleged scholarly endorsements of the New World Translation closely and ask yourself the following questions: (20)

(1)   Is the reviewer who appears to be endorsing the NWT a bona fide Greek or Hebrew Scholar?  What are the reviewer’s scholarly qualifications?  Just because the Watchtower refers to someone as “noted Greek scholar X” doesn’t mean he really is one!  Check him out.

(2)   Are the reviewer’s comments about the NWT really being reported fully and accurately?  Is the reviewer being quoted in context? (JW writers are quite notorious for quoting Bible scholars out of context in support of their pet theories).  Ask to see a copy of the entire scholarly article.  Read it carefully.  Does the reviewer note any problems with the NWT?

(3)   Does the reviewer give evidence that he has carefully studied the NWT and brought all of his scholarly expertise to bear on his examination?  Is the review in question really an in-depth review?  Some reviews (even those done by bona fide scholars) can be rather perfunctory.  Does the reviewer give numerous actual examples drawn from the text of the NWT to illustrate his comments or does he content himself with vague generalities?  It goes without saying that the more detailed and in-depth a scholarly review is, the more seriously it should be taken.

(4)   Is the review in question really a review of the NWT?  I only mention this point because JWs have actually been known to circulate a brief review of their Kingdom Interlinear Translation as proof of the scholarly legitimacy of the NWT.  But, clearly, an endorsement of the one book cannot necessarily be construed as an endorsement of the other.

(5)   Can the alleged scholarly endorsements of the NWT be verified by independent means?  Second-hand anecdotes and private letters of doubtful authenticity (that seem to exist only in the Watchtower’s own files) can hardly be said to carry the same weight as an in-depth, published scholarly review.

(6)   Will the Jehovah’s Witnesses who are providing you with scholarly endorsements of the NWT also provide you with copies of any scholarly reviews that are critical of the NWT (so that you can examine both sides of the issue and make up your own mind)?  Will they tell you where you can find such critical reviews?  If not, why not?  Why are they afraid of giving you access to all of the information you need to make an informed decision?  Ask your JW friend if he has ever read a negative critical review of the NWT.  If not, then why not?  Ask him if he would be willing to read a negative critical review if you could show him one.

 For further recommended reading:

·        Bowman, Robert, Understanding Jehovah’s Witnesses  (Baker Book House: Grand Rapids, 1991).  An outstanding book by one of the world’s foremost authorities on the Jehovah’s Witness sect.  Especially worthy of note are his chapters on “The New World Translation” (pp. 65-74), “Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Divine Name” (pp. 109-122), and “What scholars think of the New World Translation” (pp. 125-139).

·        “The Divine name in the Christian Greek Scriptures,” pp. 1564-1566 in The New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures, with References, (The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, Inc, Brooklyn, NY, 1984).  This is the article in the Jehovah’s Witness study Bible in which the JW leadership seeks to justify its insertion of the proper name  “Jehovah” into the New Testament over 200 times.  Of particular interest are the numerous Hebrew “J” manuscripts listed by the Watchtower Society in this article as manuscript support for its renderings.  But these “J” manuscripts are not ancient manuscripts at all!  They are, in fact, all modern Hebrew versions of the New Testament, produced between 1385 and 1981.  As such, they can hardly be considered as relevant evidence bearing upon the original contents of the ancient Greek New Testament.  (But don’t they look impressive and scholarly all lined up in a row?) 

·        Mason, Doug, JEHOVAH in the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ New World Translation, (Bethel Ministries, Manhattan Beach, California, 1987).  An excellent critique of the JWs’ use of “Jehovah” in the New World Translation, focusing largely on the manuscript evidence.  Highly recommended by Robert Bowman.

·        Countess, Robert H., The Jehovah’s Witnesses’ New Testament.  (Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, Phillipsburg, New Jersey, 1982).  This is the definitive scholarly review of the New World Translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures.  It was written by a highly qualified (PhD) Greek scholar.  Read all of the scholarly reviews given to you by your JW friends, but don’t make up your mind about the NWT until you have read this book, too!


(1) While rejecting the title “apostles,” the Governing Body does see itself as filling basically the same niche in Jehovah’s modern-day organization that the Apostles occupied in the First Century church.

(2) See, for example, The Watchtower, 2/1/52, p. 80

(3) The Watchtower, 9/15/50, p. 314

(4) Although the Watchtower to this day refuses to name the translators, former members of the Jehovah’s Witness sect have revealed their names.  See below under the heading “A Side by side comparison…”

(5)  Bruce M. Metzger, “Jehovah’s Witnesses and Jesus Christ,” Theology Today, (April, 1953), p. 74.  See also Metzger’s “The New World Translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures” in The Bible Translator (July, 1964).  Dr. Metzger is the George L. Collord Professor of New Testament Language and Literature Emeritus at Princeton Theological Seminary.  He is the author of hundreds of articles on Bible translation, textual criticism, the Hebrew Bible, the Apocrypha, and the New Testament.  He has published numerous books, including the New Testament: Its Background, Growth, and Content; The Text of the New Testament; Manuscripts of the Greek Bible; A Textual Commentary of the Greek New Testament; Lexical Aids for Students of New Testament Greek; and The Canon of the New Testament.  He was the general editor of the New Testament Tools and Studies series, The Reader’s Digest Bible, and The Oxford Companion to the Bible and was on the editorial boards of the International Greek New Testament Project, the United Bible Societies’ Greek New Testament, The Revised Standard Version of the Bible, and the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible.

(6) Dr. Mantey made this comment on videotape.  See the video “Witnesses of Jehovah,” distributed by Impact Resources, P.O. Box 1169, Murrieta, CA, 92564.

(7) Robert H. Countess, The Jehovah’s Witness New Testament, Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., Phillipsburg, New Jersey, 1982, p. 91.

(8) See, for example, Raymond Franz, Crisis of Conscience, Commentary Press, Atlanta, 1992, p. 50 note.  Ray Franz was the nephew of one of the NWT translators and later served for nine years as one of the members of the elite “Governing Body” (the ruling council of the Jehovah’s Witness sect).

(9) These names were provided by the Lockman Foundation in answer to my e-mail request.  For more info on the NASB translation contact the Lockman Foundation at  

(10) Franz, Crisis of Conscience, p. 50 note

(11)  In saying this we are doing little more than taking the Jehovah’s Witness leadership at its word.  By their own admission the New World Translation arose out of their “need” for a Bible translation “in harmony with revealed truth” (“revealed truth” in this context meaning exactly the same thing to a Jehovah’s Witness as “Jehovah’s Witness doctrine”). The Watchtower, 9/15/50, p. 314

(12) Interestingly, the New World Translation translates this Greek construction in Ephesians 1:14 more or less correctly.  It is only in Romans 8:23, when a correct translation would jeopardize their theology, that they feel the need to deviate.

(13) To put it simply, Christ did not shed his blood to rescue us from our physical bodies, as though our bodies were evil entities.  He did, however, shed his blood to (among other things) rescue us from the principle of sin and death.  It should also be pointed out that in Romans 7:24 the phrase “the body of this death” refers not to Paul’s physical body, but to the sin nature that dwelt within Paul (7:17,23).  By mistranslating Romans 8:23 the Jehovah’s Witnesses are, in fact, introducing a pagan Gnostic concept (matter=evil) into the Biblical text.  Only a Gnostic would view his body as something he needed to be “ransomed” (i.e. rescued) from.

(14) See The Watchtower, 2/15/83, p. 12, in which “taking in knowledge” about God is listed as one of the key requirements for inheriting everlasting life.

(15) The Watchtower, 6/1/85, p. 31

(16) The New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures, With References,  The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, Brooklyn: 1984, p.7.

(17) For the full JW argument, see The New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures, With References, pp. 1564-1565.  The only argument of any significance I haven’t mentioned here concerns an article Written by George Howard in the Journal of Biblical Literature (vol. 96, 1977, p. 63).  Howard’s controversial theory that the New Testament manuscripts might have originally contained the tetragrammaton (YHWH), though hailed by Jehovah’s Witnesses, has been universally rejected by the scholarly community as too speculative.  To date, no New Testament manuscript has yet surfaced that would lend any credence to Howard’s theory.

(18) The e-mail address of the Lockman Foundation is

(19) For many years the Watchtower backed up its translation of John 1:1 (“the word was a god”) by quoting from an obscure translation whose author (Johannes Greber) claimed to have received his translation by dictation from spirits!  The Watchtower magazine condemned Greber and his translation in 1956 (2/15/56, p. 110), but two later Watchtower books (published in 1962 and 1965 respectively) quoted Greber’s rendering in John 1:1 as supporting evidence for the New World Translation.  (see The Word: Who is He? Accordong to John, p. 5, and Make Sure of All Things, p. 489).  It wasn’t until 1983 that the Watchtower finally stopped quoting from Greber’s New Testament, though it had known of Greber’s spiritism for nearly three decades.

(20) Most of the following questions were adapted from Robert Bowman’s book Understanding Jehovah’s Witnesses, p. 139. (See below under “Recommended Reading” for bibliographic information).

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