Saturday 16 May 2009

New World Translation examined

"The "New world" translation is the finest translation there is".
This is a phrase that a Jehovah's Witnesses will either hear said many times, or read in the publications.

When I attended an intensive study and teaching course serving as a "pioneer" (in the Door to Door work) ,the book which we used
had a whole chapter dedicated to the "Effective use of the NWT" .

This chapter from the "Illuminators" book asks on page100 ; "Why was the NWT needed in the first place?" One of the answers given was :- "The honest-hearted need help to comprehend correctly the Bible's teachings"

Also this statement is made..."The NWT is a completely new translation unfettered by Christendom's religious traditions"

And ....."It is especially appreciated since it was translated directly from Hebrew , Aramaic and Greek"

Let us examine these three quotes and determine whether they are accurate statements.

How have the "honest-hearted" managed without the NWT for the best part of 2000 years? Is it fair to claim that persons reading the Bible would not be able to understand what they were reading and would fail to see the Bible's "teachings" until circa 1960 A.D.?

These comments are of course to reinforce the notion that this "translation" is indispensable to serious Bible students and anyone who regards themselves as honest-hearted. And the "help" comes from reading the NWT as opposed to other Bibles. The NWT was produced by an anonymous group of people in the 1950's and 60's.
Some of these same people consider themselves to be God's "Channel of communication on earth" , so it would follow that their Bible would also be considered to have God's approval.

Let us look at one example to see if the "Bible's teachings" are adhered to and expounded clearly.

Please look at Hebrews 1:6 "But when he again brings his Firstborn into the inhabited earth, he says: “And let all God’s angels do obeisance to him.”- New World Translation.

What are the honest-hearted being told here about Jesus? They are being told that the Angels do "obeisance" to him.
However when we look at the footnote in their reference Bible for Heb. 1:6 we see that it is the Greek word used is proskuneo and should actually be rendered "let WORSHIP" as it appears in many other translations. In the 1961 NWT it IS rendered "worship" but in the next revision (1971) it was removed for reasons known to this anonymous group.

Are the the "honest hearted" being helped to "comprehend" Bible truth?
The Watchtower Society (WTS) do not want to encourage the worship of Jesus in any way, a fact born out by the blatant removal of the word worship from this verse. So is manipulating the way a verse is translated acceptable, when the verse conveys a thought that is alien to the belief system one holds? I would have thought not.

Let us look at the second statement."The NWT is a completely new translation unfettered by Christendom's religious traditions".

This may well be an accurate statement to make as the WTS often adopt a position which is contrary to "Christendom" even if it cannot be substantiated , such as Jesus dying on a stake not a cross. So we would expect this same criteria to be applied in their NWT.

Is it fair though to say that your translation is unfettered by any religious "entity" such as "Christendom" while at the same time being heavily influenced or "fettered" by your OWN doctrinal bias?
Here is a quote from the Watchtower which represents how this actually works in real terms.

Watchtower 1986 4/1 p. 31

"Approved association with Jehovah’s Witnesses requires accepting the entire range of the true teachings of the Bible, including those Scriptural beliefs that are unique to Jehovah’s Witnesses. What do such beliefs include?
That there is a “faithful and discreet slave” upon earth today ‘entrusted with all of Jesus’ earthly interests,’ which slave is associated with the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses."(end of quote)

Notice how the Bible's true "teachings" are actually qualified by those beliefs which are "unique" to Jehovah's Witnesses?
So what this means is that the doctrinal and belief system of JWs such as the "faithful Slave" dogma are ,according to them, the REAL message of the Bible as interpreted by the Governing Body. Is this not exactly what the wts are claiming the NWT is free from?

Now let us consider the third quote:- "It is especially appreciated since it was translated directly from Hebrew , Aramaic and Greek"

While it is true that the NWT is translated from these ancient languages this statement gives the impression that the NWT always uses the oldest and most accurate manuscripts available and again that there is little room for manipulation.

Here is the quote from the foreword from the 1951 NWT:-

"The original writings of the Christian Greek Scriptures, commonly called the New Testament, were inspired. No translation of these Sacred writings into another language, is inspired... The Greek text that we have used as a basis of our NW translation is the widely accepted Westcott and Hort text (1881) by reason of its admitted excellence.But we have also taken in to consideration other texts including that prepared by D. Eberhard Nestle and that compiled by the Spanish Jesuit scholar Jose Maria Bover and that by the other Jesuit scholar A. Merk..."

The New world translation does not always use the oldest and most accurate manuscripts. So the question must be asked did they actually follow the ancient Greek text established by "Christendom's scholars, as they claim? No they did not. They threw in another series of later peculiar documents which have nothing to do with scholarly textual criticism because they are not witnesses to the ancient Greek text. Some of these "sources" happen to have included the name "Jehovah" or YHWH. Also of note is the fact that two named Jesuit Scholars (a high order of the Catholic Church) worked on the original Greek manuscripts to produce a translation which the society have drawn from for the NWT. These people are part of the very entity they repudiate in the WTS publications. So these sources , i. e. the Catholic Church are viable when it suits their purposes and vehemently condemned at other times. Is this not somewhat hypocritical?
Does this sound like the NWT is "unfettered" by Christendom's teachings?

Have a look in the NWT footnotes and you will see the proliferation of the letter "J" , these are the instances where they have utilised "manuscripts" and "sources" ranging from the 1500's to 1981. Usually where the Greek word for "Lord"(Kyrios) or God (Theos) would appear, the name Jehovah has been inserted in their place , thus "restoring" the Divine name to it's "rightful" place in the Greek scriptures. This has been done 237 times in the new testament of the New World Translation.
The oldest available Greek manuscripts do not contain YHWH at all, other than the expression "hallelujah" which appears in Revelation 19:3.

However a striking example of the translators doctrinal bias , hypocrisy and hiding the true message of the Bible is found at 1Thessalonians 4:15,16. in the NWT.
" For this is what we tell you by Jehovah’s word, that we the living who survive to the presence of the Lord shall in no way precede those who have fallen asleep [in death]; because the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a commanding call, with an archangel’s voice and with God’s trumpet, and those who are dead in union with Christ will rise first."

In the above verses the Greek word Kyrios or Lord in English, appears 3 times in the oldest Greek manuscripts. (highlighted).
In verse 15 we see that the NWT translators have used the name Jehovah in place of lord in the phrase "Jehovah's word" when in the Greek manuscripts it is "kyrios" or Lord.
The "J" manuscript uses Jehovah here so that is the NWT translation basis for including it . The NWT translation committee proudly say they have restored the divine name to it's rightful place. Please look to the very next verse (16). The Greek word Kyrios is now rendered "Lord" instead of Jehovah. If you again check the footnote of the reference bible you will notice that the "J" source translation has indeed rendered the name Jehovah , just as in the preceding verse. And yet now the preferred manuscript is ABVg which uses "kyrios" or Lord.
So why have the NWT translation Committee decided that the Divine name "Jehovah" is now surplus to requirements?

The answer is doctrinal bias. Can the Watchtower teach that "Jehovah descends from heaven with an Archangel's voice"? Can they have a teaching as in verse 17 where the those caught up meet "Jehovah" in the "Air"? (again see reference Bible footnotes) What is the Bible actually saying?
There are two doctrinal issues which prevent them using the "J" rendering here.

1. They teach that Jesus is an Archangel and use this verse as a proof text.

2. They teach that Jehovah has never been on the earth so it cannot possibly be true that Jehovah comes down from heaven.

So here is an example of the Bible being very much in second place to the "teachings" of the WTS. Also of note is the sudden disregard for the name Jehovah when it clashes with doctrinal positions.

So is the New World Translation "the finest there is"?, helping "honest-hearted" ones find Bible truth?, and is it "unfettered" by religious "traditions"?

I was shocked when I discovered the many instances where the NWT is in fact doing the opposite of what it claims to do.

I was raised to believe that this was an honest piece of work , instead I found through personal study, many cases where the verses were changed to suit JW beliefs by omitting words , changing words, adding words and in some cases entire phrases.

I lost my confidence in this "translation" many years ago. But I found a new love for the Bible in other more reliable works such as the fine New International Version (N.I.V.) which I would recommend.

No translation is perfect of course and many do reflect the beliefs of the translators but in the case of the NWT what has been done is a bridge too far.( Revelation 22:19.)


  1. I'd bookmarked your site quite a long time ago, but just found my way back to it last night. I enjoyed this article a good deal, in particular your comments on the NWT rendering of 1 Thes. 4:15 & 16.