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:
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
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
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.
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:
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).
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?
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
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).
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
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
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
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
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?
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
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
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
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
Argument #1: The New Testament contains frequent quotes
from the LXX (The Septuagint; an early Greek translation of the Hebrew Old
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
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
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.
regularly use three basic arguments in support of their own Bible translation.
Let us consider these arguments one at a time.
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
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)
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
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?
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.
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.
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.
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
For further recommended reading:
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).
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?)
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.
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
(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
(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
(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
(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
(18) The e-mail address of
the Lockman Foundation is www.gospelcom.net/lockman
(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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