Is the New World Translation Accurate?


Text: Isaiah 8:19-22

 

I.         Members of the Jehovah’s Witnesses have become excited in recent times. An author with a Ph.D. after his name has written a book saying the New World Translation and the New American Bible (a Catholic translation) are the most accurate translations.

            A.        He compared nine translations:

                        1.         King James Version

                        2.         New Revised Standard Version

                        3.         New International Version

                        4.         New American Bible

                        5.         New American Standard Bible

                        6.         Amplified Bible

                        7.         Living Bible

                        8.         Today's English Version

                        9.         New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures

            B.        He claims that because he teaches at a state university and claims no religious preference that he can minimize bias in his judgement.

            C.        He makes the determination on the following:

                        1.         Bowing to Bias: Which is more accurate "bow" or "worship" in Matthew 28:9 and related verses?

                        2.         Grasping at Accuracy: Did Jesus not "exploit" his equality with God or did he not "grasp" for equality with God at Philippians 2:6?

                        3.         When is a Man Not a Man?: This chapter deals with gender bias issues.

                        4.         Probing the Implicit Meaning: Should words be added to translated text of Colossians 1:15-20 to clarify the Greek meaning?

                        5.         Words Together and Apart: Should Titus 2:13 be translated to read that Jesus and God are the same or should they be differentiated?

                        6.         An Uncertain Throne: Which is the least biased translation of Hebrews 1:8. "Your throne O God" or "God is your throne"?

                        7.         Tampering with Tenses: What is the correct tense to use in the English translation of John 8:58.

                        8.         And the Word Was ... What?: Should the English translation of John 1:1 say (essentially) that Jesus is "God" or "divine"?

                        9.         The Spirit Writ Large: When should the Greek word for "spirit" (such as used in "holy spirit") be capitalized?

            D.        For people familiar with Jehovah’s Witnesses doctrine, alarm bells ring because most of those issues are ones central to Jehovah’s Witnesses. This is not a theologically neutral list.

            E.        The plot thickens when you learn that Dr. Beduhn uses the Kingdom Interlinear Translation for his Greek classes at Northern Arizona State University – an interlinear text following Westcott - Hort’s Greek text (not one of the better texts), published by ... the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

            F.        Oh, and Jason BeDuhn received his Master of Arts in Theological Studies from Harvard Divinity School. He received a PhD from the University of Indiana in Comparative Religious Studies. While he teaches Greek at the university, his degree is not in Koine Greek, he is not a known Greek scholar, nor a Bible translator.

            G.        In other words, there is justified concern that his claims are biased.

II.        Perhaps you don’t know this, but the Jehovah’s Witnesses do not claim that the translation was done by translators who knew Hebrew and Greek.

            A.        “A translation committee of experienced anointed Christians was organized to produce the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures in English.” [Watchtower, October 15, 1997, “How the Bible Came to Us, p. 11-12.]

                        1.         “Experienced” means they had been a part of the Jehovah’s Witnesses for a long time.

                        2.         “Anointed” means they were inspired by the Holy Spirit.

            B.        During a court trial in Glasgow, Scotland, in 1954, Fred Franz, head of the Jehovah’s Witnesses publicity department, was asked to explain how the translation and interpretation of the Bible was made. Mr. Franz replied, they emanated from God, “passed to the Holy Spirit who, invisible, communicates with Jehovah’s Witnesses – and the publicity department.”

            C.        “Fred Franz however, was the only one with sufficient knowledge of the Bible languages to attempt translation of this kind. He had studied Greek for two years in the University of Cincinnati but was only self-taught in Hebrew.” [Crisis of Conscience, Raymond Franz, page 50].

                        1.         When asked in the courtroom if he could translate Genesis 2:4 into Hebrew, Mr. Fanz replied that he could not.

            D.        The other four translators: Nathan Knorr, Albert Schroeder, George Gangas, and M. Henschel, had no Hebrew or Greek training and had only high school level educations.

III.       Examples

            A.        Genesis 1:2

                        1.         “Now the earth proved to be formless and waste and there was darkness upon the surface of [the] watery deep; and God’s active force was moving to and fro over the surface of the waters.” (NWT)

                        2.         The Hebrew phrase, weruach elohim, is literally “the Spirit of God,” but Jehovah’s Witnesses reject the idea of a being known as the Holy Spirit, so verses where the Spirit is active are modified.

                        3.         Interestingly, in other passages where ruach appears, such as Genesis 6:3 and 41:38, they retain the translation “spirit,” though they make sure not to capitalize the word.

            B.        Exodus 3:14

                        1.         “At this God said to Moses: ‘I shall prove to be what I shall prove to be.’ And he added: ‘This is what you are to say to the sons of Israel, “I shall prove to be has sent me to you.”’” (NWT)

                        2.         The Hebrew phrase, ‘eheyeh ‘asher ‘eheyeh, literally is “I am who I am.” But Jesus alludes to this statement in John 8:58 by calling himself “I am,” and Jehovah’s Witnesses reject the deity of Jesus so this passage was modified.

            C.        Numbers 1:52

                        1.         “And the sons of Israel must encamp each with reference to his camp and each man by his [three-tribe] division by their armies.” (NWT)

                        2.         The Hebrew phrase ‘al-dighlo, literally means “besides his banner,” but Jehovah Witnesses regard saluting a flag as idolatry, so the text was altered to remove reference to the presence of a flag or standard.

                        3.         This was also done in other places as well.

            D.        Matthew 2:11

                        1.         “And when they went into the house they saw the young child with Mary its mother, and, falling down, they did obeisance to it. ...” (NWT)

                        2.         The Greek word proskuneo means to worship or do reverence to, but Jehovah’s Witnesses do not recognize Jesus as worthy of being worshiped as a divine being, so words like “worship” are avoided.

                        3.         Of course, when it doesn’t involve Jesus, the New World Translation does use the word “worship,” such as in Matthew 4:9, “and he said to him: “All these things I will give you if you fall down and do an act of worship to me.”

            E.        Matthew 25:46

                        1.         “And these will depart into everlasting cutting-off, but the righteous ones into everlasting life.” (NWT)

                        2.         The Greek word kolasis means punishment or torment, but this implies the continued existence of the unrighteous as a non-existent person cannot be punished or tormented eternally. Since Jehovah’s Witnesses teach that the wicked are annihilated, the word is changed in this verse.

                        3.         For the same reason, the same Greek word is translated as “restraint” in I John 4:18. But notice the variance in meaning given in the New World Translation.

            F.        Luke 23:43

                        1.         “And he said to him: ‘Truly I tell you today. You will be with me in Paradise.’” (NWT)

                        2.         The Greek phrase amen lego soi, semeron met’ emou ese en to paradeiso literally translates as “Truly I say to you, today with me you shall be in Paradise.” The adverb semeron (today) is moved from the statement to the introductory clause because Jehovah’s Witnesses reject the idea that the human spirit is conscious after death. Thus moving the word makes it appear that the statement is dealing with when it was said instead of when their spirits would go.

            G.        John 1:1

                        1.         “In [the] beginning the Word was, and the Word was with God, and the Word was a god.” (NWT)

                        2.         In Greek it is: “En arche en ho logos kai ho logos en pros ton theon kai theos en ho logos” which is literally “In beginning was the word and the word was with the God and God was the word.” An article was added to the second usage of God.

                        3.         In Greek, emphasis is created by word order, thus in the last phrase, emphasis is placed on theos (God). The lack of an article indicates that the qualities and characteristics of God, that is divinity, equally belong to the Word.

                                    a.         It is not saying that the Word is the same being as God.

                                    b.         It is not saying that the Word is a lesser being of the same kind as God. In Greek that would require saying tis theos.

                        4.         In other usages of theos, such as John 1:6, 12, 18 no article is added to the translation. The same word also appears in John 3:16, but of course without an article in front of it. This because Jehovah’s Witnesses deny the deity of Jesus, so the revision asserts that Jesus was god-like but not equal to God.

                        5.         The use of “God” in John 1:1 is a class of being.

                                    a.         Let me illustrate with equivalent words: “In the beginning was Eve, and Eve was with Man, and Eve was Man.”

                                    b.         But the New Word Translation way would say: “In the beginning was Eve, and Eve was with Man, and Eve was a Man.”

                                    c.         The first says Eve was in the same class as Adam and was equal to him without being exactly him.

                                    d.         The second says Eve was a copy of Adam down to the gender, but a different individual.

                                    e.         In other words, the New World Translation states that there are multiple gods.

            H.        John 1:18

                        1.         “No man has seen God at any time; the only-begotten god who is in the bosom position with the Father is the one that has explained him.” (NWT)

                        2.         The Greek word huios, which means “son” is changed to a lower case “god” to emphasize the alteration made in John 1:1. Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that Jesus was the first created being of creation.

            I.         John 8:58

                        1.         “Jesus said to them: ‘Most truly I say to you, before Abraham came into existence, I have been.” (NWT)

                        2.         The Greek phrase ego eimi, which literally means “I am” was changed in tense so that it could not easily be connected with Exodus 3:14 and the name of God.

                        3.         What is interesting is that this isn’t the only place where Jesus calls himself “I am.” In John 8:23-24; 13:18-19; and 18:3-8 the same phrase is used and translated in the New World Translation as “I am he,” with no indication that “he” is an added word.

            J.         Acts 20:28

                        1.         “Pay attention to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the holy spirit has appointed you overseers, to shepherd the congregation of God, which he purchased with the blood of his own [Son].” (NWT)

                        2.         The Greek phrase is periepoiesato dia tou idiou haimatos, which is literally translated “he purchased through the his own blood.” But Jehovah’s Witnesses deny that God, the Son, purchased the church with His own blood, so the word order was changed and “Son” inserted that the Father purchased the church with the blood of his son.

            K.         Romans 8:28

                        1.         “Now we know that God makes all his works co-operate together for the good of those who love God, those who are the ones called according to his purpose.” (NWT)

                        2.         The Greek word panta, which means “all things” is changed implying that God only controls His works, and not everything, to operate for the good of His people.

            L.        I Corinthians 6:19-20

                        1.         “What! Do YOU not know that the body of YOU people is [the] temple of the holy spirit within YOU, which YOU have from God? Also, YOU do not belong to yourselves, for YOU were bought with a price. By all means, glorify God in the body of YOU people.” (NWT)

                        2.         Jehovah’s Witnesses reject the idea of a personal abiding of the Holy Spirit with individual Christians. Therefore the wording is generalized to say it is the body of believers. (Which is why the translation has YOU in all capitals.

                        3.         Of course, the word “people” is not in the Greek.

            M.        Philippians 2:6

                        1.         “Who, although he was existing in God’s form, gave no consideration to a seizure, namely, that he should be equal to God.” (NWT)

                        2.         Once again, Jehovah’s Witnesses reject the idea that Jesus could be equal to God, so wording was severely altered. The use of the word “seizure” implies in English that one is grabbing something that doesn’t belong to him.

                        3.         In the Greek it is hos en morphe theou huparchon ouch harpagmon hegesato to einai isa theo, which literally translated is “who, in form of God being, no robbery considered it the to be equal with God”

                        4.         Think about it in context, why would bypassing a thought to make oneself equal to God be an example of humility? No, humility is shown because Jesus was equal to God and left that state to become a man.

            O.       Colossians 1:16-20

                        1.         “Because by means of him all [other] things were created in the heavens and upon the earth, the things visible and the things invisible, no matter whether they are thrones or lordships or governments or authorities. All [other] things have been created through him and for him. Also, he is before all [other] things and by means of him all [other] things were made to exist, and he is the head of the body, the congregation. He is the beginning, the first-born from the dead, that he might become the one who is first in all things; because God saw good for all fullness to dwell in him, and through him to reconcile again in himself all [other] things by making peace through the blood [he shed] on the torture stake, no matter whether they are the things upon the earth or the things in the heavens.” (NWT)

                        2.         Jehovah’s Witness don’t believe Jesus died upon a cross, but upon a pole, so the Greek word stauros is translated as a “torture stake.”

                        3.         The insertion of “[other]” is to avoid what the Greek text actually says. Jesus created all things, which implies that he himself could not be created.

                        4.         It is interesting to note that they didn’t alter one “all things”, the one in verse 18. Thus they have Paul saying he is the head of all things even though he only created all other things.

            P.        II Peter 3:10

                        1.         “Yet Jehovah’s day will come as a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a hissing noise, but the elements being intensely hot will be dissolved, and earth and the works in it will be discovered.” (NWT)

                        2.         The Greek word kurios, which means “lord” is altered to Jehovah because the Jehovah’s Witnesses insist that this is the only proper name for God.

                        3.         “Jehovah” does not appear in the Greek New Testament (it is a mispronunciation of a Hebrew word), yet it is found 237 times in the New Testament of the New World Translation.

                        4.         The Greek word katakaio, which means to wholly destroy or to burn up completely is changes to “discover” because Jehovah’s Witnesses teach that this earth is eternal.

                                    a.         There is a world of difference between “Our dinner was burned up!” and “Our dinner was discovered!”

            Q.        This is not even close to an exhaustive list of errors.

IV.      Is it any wonder that experts in the field reject the New World Translation?

            A.        Dr. Bruce M. Metzger, professor of New Testament Language and Literature at Princeton University, calls the New World Translation, “a frightful mistranslation,” “erroneous,” “pernicious,” and “reprehensible.” “If the Jehovah’s Witnesses take this translation seriously, they are polytheists.”

            B.        Dr. William Barclay, a leading Greek scholar, said, “it is abundantly clear that a sect which can translate the New Testament like that is intellectually dishonest.”

            C.        Dr. Julius Mantey, author of A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament, calls the New World Translation “a shocking mistranslation” and “obsolete and incorrect.” He goes on to say, “It is neither scholarly nor reasonable to translate John 1:1 ‘the Word was a god.”

                        1.         Dr. Mantey is quoted on pages 1158-1159 of the Kingdom Interlinear Translation, of which Dr. Mantey stated, “Well, as a backdrop, I was disturbed because they [Watchtower] had misquoted me in support of their translation.”

                        2.         He also stated, “The translators of the NWT are ‘diabolical deceivers.”

                        3.         “I have never read any New Testament so badly translated as the Kingdom Interlinear Translation of the Greek Scriptures ... it is a distortion of the New Testament. The translators used what J. B. Rotherham had translated in 1893, in modern speech, and changed the readings in scores of passages to state what Jehovah’s Witnesses believe and teach. That is a distortion not a translation.” [Depth Exploration in the New Testament, Julius Mantey, p. 136-137].

V.        No Morning Light

            A.        Isaiah 8:19-22 - Speaks of trying to consult fakes instead of God. But fakes don’t speak according to the word of God. Thus they have no light (truth) within them.

            B.        The New World Translation is not according the truth given to us by God. It has no light.



Mistranslations of the New World Translation


Genesis 1:2

Now the earth proved to be formless and waste and there was darkness upon the surface of [the] watery deep; and God’s active force was moving to and fro over the surface of the waters.


Exodus 3:14

At this God said to Moses: ‘I shall prove to be what I shall prove to be.’ And he added: ‘This is what you are to say to the sons of Israel, “I shall prove to be has sent me to you.”’


Numbers 1:52

And the sons of Israel must encamp each with reference to his camp and each man by his [three-tribe] division by their armies.


Matthew 2:11

And when they went into the house they saw the young child with Mary its mother, and, falling down, they did obeisance to it. ...


Matthew 25:46

And these will depart into everlasting cutting-off, but the righteous ones into everlasting life.


Luke 23:43

And he said to him: ‘Truly I tell you today. You will be with me in Paradise.’




Mistranslations of the New World Translation


John 1:1

In [the] beginning the Word was, and the Word was with God, and the Word was a god.


John 1:18

No man has seen God at any time; the only-begotten god who is in the bosom position with the Father is the one that has explained him.


John 8:58

Jesus said to them: ‘Most truly I say to you, before Abraham came into existence, I have been.

Acts 20:28

Pay attention to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the holy spirit has appointed you overseers, to shepherd the congregation of God, which he purchased with the blood of his own [Son].


Romans 8:28

Now we know that God makes all his works co-operate together for the good of those who love God, those who are the ones called according to his purpose.



Mistranslations of the New World Translation

I Corinthians 6:19-20

What! Do YOU not know that the body of YOU people is [the] temple of the holy spirit within YOU, which YOU have from God? Also, YOU do not belong to yourselves, for YOU were bought with a price. By all means, glorify God in the body of YOU people.


Philippians 2:6

Who, although he was existing in God’s form, gave no consideration to a seizure, namely, that he should be equal to God.


Colossians 1:16-20

Because by means of him all [other] things were created in the heavens and upon the earth, the things visible and the things invisible, no matter whether they are thrones or lordships or governments or authorities. All [other] things have been created through him and for him. Also, he is before all [other] things and by means of him all [other] things were made to exist, and he is the head of the body, the congregation. He is the beginning, the first-born from the dead, that he might become the one who is first in all things; because God saw good for all fullness to dwell in him, and through him to reconcile again in himself all [other] things by making peace through the blood [he shed] on the torture stake, no matter whether they are the things upon the earth or the things in the heavens.


II Peter 3:10

Yet Jehovah’s day will come as a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a hissing noise, but the elements being intensely hot will be dissolved, and earth and the works in it will be discovered.