NEW WORLD TRANSLATION
PART I
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This page is the first of two parts discussing the New World Translation Bible.
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INTRODUCTION

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The Watchtower Society publishes their own Bible version known as the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures. It is written in modernized language and follows the format of protestant Bibles, meaning that it does not include any of the the apocryphal works that are contained in Roman Catholic and Orthodox Bibles. Its chapters and verses follow the numbering according to the King James version, although verses are grouped into paragraphs instead of being individual paragraphs themselves. It also contains capitalized second person plurals (plural "YOU" and singular "you") and tends to use single brackets "[ ]" to indicate the insertion of words that are meant to help complete the sense of the text according to the Watchtower Society's rendering. You can access this Bible version online here.

The New Testament portion of this translation was first published in 1950, bearing the title New World Translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures. Over the next decade the Old Testament portion was released in installments with the finished product (Both Old and New Testaments bound together) becoming available in 1961. Before this translation was available, the Watchtower Society used various other Bible versions such as: the American Standard Version, the Bible in Living English, and the King James Version. Notably, each of these versions uses the Anglicized version of God's personal name, “Jehovah,” within its pages.

As of July 2011, the New World Translation has been translated into 106 languages and is used primarily by the Jehovah's Witness membership, though some non-members and ex-members own it as a novelty item. For those interested in Bible translation backgrounds, the basis for the Old Testament portion is based on the text from Rudolf Kittel's Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia as well a consultation from the Dead Sea Scrolls. The New Testament portion was primarily based on the 1881 Greek text prepared by Westcott and Hort. The Watchtower Society teaches that all Bible versions have value, but that their Bible version is the most accurate one available (The Watchtower, August 1, 2008, pp.18-22; All Scripture is Inspired of God and Beneficial, 1990, p.324-327, para. 17-35).

According to the Watchtower Society's teaching, the New Testament portion of the Bible was written primarily for the anointed ones going to Heaven (The Watchtower, January 15, 2008, p.22 para.11). Remembering that, in the Jehovah's Witness world, a total of only 144,000 Christians can ever be anointed (and are the only ones eligible for entrance into Heaven), this means that, in their teaching, the New Testament is not written for the majority of mankind. The Watchtower Society also teaches that only the anointed ones of the “faithful and discreet slave” are the ones who are appointed in charge of Christ's “belongings” (The Watchtower, January 15, 2008, p.24, para. 1-2). This means that only “Jehovah's Organization” is recognized to be the only one who can correctly interpret Scripture (Reasoning From the Scriptures, 1989, p.205, para. 3; The Watchtower, August 15, 1988, p.14, para. 19-20; The Watchtower, February 15, 1981, p.19, The Watchtower, October 1, 1967, p.587, para.9). The Watchtower Society has openly stated that they do not approve of independent groups of Jehovah's Witnesses who meet together for the purpose of Scriptural research or debate, and they they further do not approve of any religious literature, worship meetings, or websites that are formed without their approval (Our Kingdom Ministry, September 2007, p.3).

According to the Foreword of the New World Translation (1984 edition):

IT IS a very responsible thing to translate the Holy Scriptures from their original languages of Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek into modern speech. Translating the Holy Scriptures means rendering into another language the thoughts and sayings of Jehovah God, the heavenly Author of this sacred library of sixty-six books that holy men of long ago were inspired to write down for our benefit today.
That is a very sobering thought. The translators of this work, who fear and love the Divine Author of the Holy Scriptures, feel toward Him a special responsibility to transmit his thoughts and declarations as accurately as possible. They also feel a responsibility toward the searching readers who depend upon a translation of the inspired Word of the Most High God for their everlasting salvation.
It was with such a sense of solemn responsibility that over the course of many years this committee of dedicated men have produced the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures. The entire work was originally released in six volumes, from 1950 to 1960. From the start it was the desire of the translators to have all these volumes brought together into one book, inasmuch as the Holy Scriptures are in actuality one book by the One Author. While the original volumes contained marginal references and footnotes, the revised one-volume edition, released in 1961, contained neither footnotes nor marginal references. A second revision was released in 1970 and a third revision with footnotes followed in 1971. In 1969 the committee released The Kingdom Interlinear Translation of the Greek Scriptures, which presented under the Greek text revised by Westcott and Hort (1948 Reprint) a literal word-for-word translation into English. During the past 34 years the New World Translation has been translated in part or in its entirety into ten other languages, with a total printing and distribution surpassing 39 million. This new edition is not just a refinement of the translated text beyond its already previous revisions, but it offers a complete updating and revision of the footnote apparatus and marginal (cross) references that were initially presented in English, from 1950 to 1960. For information as to the features of this revised edition and the service it can render to the users, we refer you to the Introduction. This 1984 revision has been released by us to the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania for printing, translation into other leading languages and distribution. We thus make it available with a deep sense of gratitude to the Divine Author of the Holy Scriptures, who has so privileged us and in whose spirit we have trusted in producing this revision. We pray for his blessing upon those who use this translation for spiritual advancement.

According to the Introduction of the 1984 reference version of the New World Translation:

The Masoretic Hebrew text used for the preparation of the English text of the Hebrew Scripture portion of the New World Translation was the Codex Leningrad B 19A (of U.S.S.R.), as presented in R. Kittel’s Biblia Hebraica (BHK), seventh, eighth and ninth editions (1951-55). An update of this work known as Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia (BHS), 1977 edition, was used to prepare the footnote apparatus of this 1984 edition. Italicized words designated as “Heb.” are transliterated from BHS. The basic Greek text used for the preparation of the English text of the Christian Greek Scripture portion of the New World Translation was The New Testament in the Original Greek, by Westcott and Hort (originally published in 1881). The Greek texts of Nestle, Bover, Merk and others were also considered. The Greek transliterations for the Christian Greek Scripture portion of the Bible, identified as “Gr.,” are from the Westcott and Hort text as reproduced in The Kingdom Interlinear Translation of the Greek Scriptures (1969). In the Hebrew Scriptures “Gr.” refers to transliterations from the Greek Septuagint (LXX), by A. Rahlfs, Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, Stuttgart, 1935.

 

COMMENTARIES BY SCHOLARS

The Watchtower Society defends the validity of the New World Translation by quoting comments of various scholars who seem to favor the New World Translation as an expertly translated work. Unfortunately, in some cases, the Watchtower Society makes the mistake of quoting scholars who do not possess degrees in ancient Biblical languages. This is a problem because a person who is not educated in ancient Biblical languages cannot be the final authority in determining the accuracy of any Bible translation because it isn't their field of expertise.To illustrate: There are many fields of medical surgeons, but these fields of expertise aren't interchangeable -- when you need brain surgery you shouldn't go to a heart surgeon. Likewise, the only scholars properly qualified to determine the accuracy of a Bible translation must be ones who possess specific credentials in ancient Biblical languages (ancient Hebrew, Aramaic, and ancient Greek).

That being said, let's take a look some of the scholars whom the Watchtower Society quoted in support of their New World Translation:

WATCHTOWER SOCIETY QUOTE:
Awake! November 2007, p.14
Some linguists have examined modern Bible translations—including the New World Translation—for examples of inaccuracy and bias. One such scholar is Jason David BeDuhn, associate professor of religious studies at Northern Arizona University in the United States. In 2003 he published a 200-page study of nine of “the Bibles most widely in use in the English-speaking world.” His study examined several passages of Scripture that are controversial, for that is where “bias is most likely to interfere with translation.” For each passage, he compared the Greek text with the renderings of each English translation, and he looked for biased attempts to change the meaning. What is his assessment?
BeDuhn points out that the general public and many Bible scholars assume that the differences in the New World Translation (NW) are due to religious bias on the part of its translators. However, he states: “Most of the differences are due to the greater accuracy of the NW as a literal, conservative translation.” While BeDuhn disagrees with certain renderings of the New World Translation, he says that this version “emerges as the most accurate of the translations compared.” He calls it a “remarkably good” translation.

THE REALITY
The Watchtower Society is quoting Dr. Jason David BeDuhn from his book "Truth in Translation -- Accuracy and Bias in English Translsations of the New Testament."(2003). Dr. BeDuhn's credentials, as of March 2012, include a B.A. in Religious Studies, a Masters in Theological Studies in New Testament and Early Christianity (which requires an intermediate level of skill in Greek) and a Ph.D. in the Comparative Study of Religions. His education also includes topics such as: Religions of Late Antiquity, Biblical Studies, Theory and Method, and a minor in History. He also studied languages such as Coptic, Parthian, Middle Persian, Latin, French, Koine Greek and German. In 2004 he was named a Guggenheim Fellow (for those who are given grants for demonstrating exceptional capacity for productive scholarship). In short, he is a highly intelligent and educated man who is a credit to his field. However his his credentials are focused towards something other than a degree in biblical translation, and thus he is not recognized as a Bible language expert even though he is an expert in other theological studies.

One of our JWOP editors emailed Dr. BeDuhn in order to confirm this information directly from the man himself. In his response, Dr. BeDuhn directly stated that he was not a "linguist" as the Watchtower stated, and made no claim to holding degrees in ancient Biblical languages. Please click on the thumbnail pictures below to read the full scans of this email exchange:

Page 1

Page 1 -- Tami's inquiry

Page 2

Page 2 -- Dr. BeDuhn's reply

 

 

 

WATCHTOWER SOCIETY QUOTE
The Watchtower, November 1 (2001) p.7 subheading "Why A New Bible Translation?"
Various scholars were impressed. For example, British Bible scholar Alexander Thomson noted that the New World Translation is outstanding in accurately rendering the Greek present tense. To illustrate: Ephesians 5:25 reads “Husbands, continue loving your wives” instead of saying merely “Husbands, love your wife.” (King James Version) “No other version appears to have exhibited this fine feature with such fulness and frequency,” said Thomson regarding the New World Translation.

See also: All Scripture is Inspired of God and Beneficial (1990)p.326 footnote, p.329 para 9; The Watchtower, October 15 (1999) p.31; Awake! March 22 (1987) p.14; Jehovah's Witnesses -- Proclaimers of God's Kingdom (1993) p.609

THE REALITY:
Note how the Watchtower Society refers to Alexander Thomson as a "scholar" in the above quote . Alexander Thomson was known for his involvement in the Concordant Publishing Concern, publishers of the Concordant Literal Version Bible and their bi-monthly magazine titled "Unsearchable Riches". Before his death in 1966 he also served as editor and contributor for the periodical "The Differentiator", a Bible commentary work. Although he was quite active in publishing Biblical based literature, Alexander Thomson, however, was no scholar: He possessed no credentials in Theology, Biblical studies, or ancient Biblical languages.

 

THE WATCHTOWER QUOTE
The Watchtower, October 15 (1999) p.29
Millions of readers have done just that and have discovered the New World Translation to be not only readable but scrupulously accurate. Its translators worked from the original Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek languages, using the best texts available. Unusual care was also exercised to render the ancient text as literally as possible but in language that would readily be understood. Accordingly, some scholars praised this translation for its integrity and accuracy. For example, the Andover Newton Quarterly of January 1963 said: “The translation of the New Testament is evidence of the presence in the movement of scholars qualified to deal intelligently with the many problems of Biblical translation."

THE REALITY
This quote was taken from the article "Jehovah's Witnesses and Their New Testament", written by Robert M. McCoy and published in the Andover Newton Quarterly issue of January 1963. This periodical is published by Andover Newton Theological School, which is located in Newton, Massachussettes. Robert McCoy's credentials include a B.A. of Divinity, and and M.A. of Sacred Theology. He neither possessed the credentials of a Bible scholar, nor was he recognized a such. Furthermore, even though the above quote seems very favorable towards the New World Translation, you can see from reading the entire article that McCoy actually wasn't as favorable towards the New World Translation as the Watchtower Society would have you believe; here are some excerpts from the article:

p. 22 Although they have followed the text of Westcott and Hort rather closely, in several instances the translators have retained readings that Westcott and Hort considered secondary readings or interpolations, and in a few instances even readings Westcott and Hort rejected.

p. 24 One could question why the translators have not stayed closer to the literal meaning, as do most translators.

pp. 28-29 One of the subtle temptations to guard against in serious Bible translation is the tendency to permit theological convictions to shape the translation. Dr. Nida comments regarding this tendency that, since the Bible is the heritage of the entire church, it should not be made the instrument for propangandizing one's own special theories of interpretation....William A. Irwin is even more emphatic on this matter: "...A "theological translation" is no translation at all but merely a dogmatic perversion of the Bible."...In not a few instances the New World Translation contains passages which must be considered as "theological translations".

 

WATCHTOWER QUOTE:
Jehovah's Witnesses -- Proclaimers of God's Kingdom (1993) p.611
Regarding the “New World Translation,” Professor Dr. Benjamin Kedar, a Hebrew scholar in Israel, said in 1989: “In my linguistic research in connection with the Hebrew Bible and translations, I often refer to the English edition of what is known as the ‘New World Translation.’ In so doing, I find my feeling repeatedly confirmed that this work reflects an honest endeavor to achieve an understanding of the text that is as accurate as possible. Giving evidence of a broad command of the original language, it renders the original words into a second language understandably without deviating unnecessarily from the specific structure of the Hebrew. . . . Every statement of language allows for a certain latitude in interpreting or translating. So the linguistic solution in any given case may be open to debate. But I have never discovered in the ‘New World Translation’ any biased intent to read something into the text that it does not contain.”

THE REALITY:
Dr. Benjamin Kedar is a professor at Hebrew University in Israel, though he does not possess credentials in ancient Biblical languages. His stated quote is only in reference to the Old Testament portion of the New World Translation, completely disregarding the New Testament. This is important because it is actually the Greek Scriptures portion that spawns the major issues of doctrine, not the Hebrew portion. Therefore, this quote is useless when trying to validate the entire work of the New World Translation.


CREATIVE EDITING

On other occasions, the Watchtower Society actually does quote scholars who are educated in the ancient Biblical languages, however, in such cases they edit the quote in such a way that more is inferred than there should be. This is not an unusual practice in the world of writing, so it isn't such a shock to see this within the Watchtower Society as well. Here are some examples of where they've done this:

WATCHTOWER QUOTE
The Watchtower, April 15 1995 p.32 article "New World Translation Impresses Scholar"
Later, Dr. ten Kate was shown the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures, which is available in 12 languages, including Dutch. His reaction? “I am very surprised,” he said, “that there is actually one Dutch Bible in which the different use of the three Greek words bre'-phos, pai-di'-on, and pais is rightly taken into account.” Does the New World Translation translate these verses in harmony with the original Greek text? “Completely in agreement,” responds Dr. ten Kate.

THE REALITY
Dr. Rijkel ten Kate, born in the Netherlands, lived from 1918 -2008. He is one of the few scholars the Watchtower Society quotes who was educated in ancient languages and, along with a colleague, translated New Testament Apocrypha. Dr. ten Kate's comments were focused specifically on the Greek words for "boy", "child" and "baby" in one singular Bible passage in Luke chapter 2, comparing English translation with Dutch translation. Some time ago, Dr. George Medina questioned Dr. ten Kate about this Watchtower quote, and the Doctor responded that he hadn't actually read anything from the New World Translation except for that one small bit, therefore couldn't give a proper judgment about the edition:


 

WATCHTOWER QUOTES:
The Watchtower, March 1 (1991) p.26
Theologian C. Houtman explains the reason for the unorthodoxy of the New World Translation: “Various traditional translations of important terms from the original text have been discarded, apparently in order to arrive at the best possible understanding.”

The Watchtower, October 15, (1985) p.21
Interestingly, Houtman notes that on the point of translator bias “the New World Translation of the Jehovah’s Witnesses can survive the scrutiny of criticism.”

THE REALITY:
Dr. George Medina wrote a letter to Dr. Houtman regarding these Watchtower quotes. Houtman's response, shown below, reveals that he actually views the New World Translation as an inadequate Bible version and that the Watchtower Society quoted him out of context:

 


All of these examples listed above are a only a scant few out of many. Simply put, when deciding on whether to trust the New World Translation as an accurate and expertly written Bible version, be sure to do your homework: Just as you can't expect a salesman to be unbiased towards the product he sells, likewise you cannot expect the Watchtower Society to be unbiased towards the Bible version they publish. Therefore, relying solely on the Watchtower Society's quotes is simply an exercise in biased opinion. Be sure to seek out the un-biased opinions as well, and then you can make an educated judgement on the matter.

 


CONTINUING ON...

Manipulating quotes and misrepresenting scholars aren't the only flaws associated with the New World Translation. It is a known fact that the man overseeing the translation of the Watchtower Society's Bible version was had no credentials in biblical languages, and in fact was a university drop-out. Compounding this problem, it is also a fact that the translators relied on the support of spirit mediums to validate this Bible translation. Part II of this article delves into the information which supports these facts.

To access Part II, please click here.