I have two great friends who have become Jehovah's Witnesses and believe that the New World Translation is the most accurate. I read your study on how we know the Bible is accurate. It is excellent, but does not mention the New World Translation. Help please.
The New World Translation (NWT) was published by the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society (WTBTS) in 1961. More than 160 million have been published and distributed around the world. The WTBTS is also commonly known as the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Why did the WTBTS publish its own Bible and how accurate is the NWT? The answer to these two questions will follow.
The NWT Translators
The trustworthiness of any Bible translation depends upon the individual translators who worked on the translation. The contributors to the New American Standard Bible, the New International Version and the New King James Version  are well known and publicized. However, one must search to discover the translators of the NWT. For example, the translators of the New American Standard Bible (NASB) are immediately identified at the front of the Bible, but the translators of the NWT are not listed. All that one discovers from the WTBTS literature is that the NWT was a translation made “by a committee of anointed witnesses of Jehovah.” Why did the WTBTS not publish the names?
Eventually, the list of six translators became known. Frederick W. Franz was the main translator. Raymond Franz, who eventually left the Jehovah’s Witnesses wrote the following in his book the Crisis of Conscience (1983),
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.
It should be noted that Frederick Franz was Raymond Franz’s uncle and one of the WTBTS’ presidents. It is reported that Frederick Franz, the primary translator of the NWT, had only twenty-one hours of formal classical Greek training at the University of Cincinnati and only two hours of Biblical Greek or Koine Greek. This information was provided in Frederick Franz’s 1911 autobiography in which he published his own college transcript. It is important to note that Koine Greek is the language taught in theological seminaries for Biblical studies. The normal study course lasts for two years or four semesters. This means that the primary translator of the NWT was inadequately trained to perform the task of Bible translation.
The other five translators had an elementary acquaintance with the Greek at the most. Together this information makes the translation of the NWT highly suspect. It is a surprise that these men embarked on a translation task as significant as translating the Bible when they had little or no training in the Greek language. So it is not a surprise that Dr. Metzger, the highly regarded New Testament Greek scholar wrote the following,
. . . the Jehovah’s Witnesses have incorporated in their translation of the New Testament several quite erroneous renderings of the Greek.
His comments simply reflect what one should expect when unqualified men attempt a task that they are not equipped to perform. Dr. J R. Mantey, co-author of the highly acclaimed Manual Greek Grammar of the Greek New Testament along with H. E. Dana, has made this comment in response to a question,
I would advise him to get a translation other than the NWT, because ninety-nine percent of the scholars of the world who know Greek and who have helped translate the Bible are in disagreement with the Jehovah’s Witnesses. People who are looking for the truth ought to know what the majority of the scholars really believe. They should not allow themselves to be misled by the Jehovah’s Witnesses.
It should be noted that Dana and Mantey’s Manual Greek Grammar of the Greek New Testament is a standard text used in theological seminaries today. In summary, the translators were not equipped to perform the task and the end product is evidence to that effect. Next, we will look at the Bible that they produced.
Translation – Verse Deleted
At a casual reading, the NWT appears to be a good Bible translation. But a careful analysis will reveal that unlike most major translations of the Bible, the NWT has deleted all the verses where there are manuscript differences. Please visit How Accurate Is the Bible? for an explanation of manuscript differences. In sharp contrast, other major translations such as the New American Standard Bible (NASB), the New International Version (NIV) and the New King James Version (NKJV), the New Century Version (NCV), the New Living Translation (NLT) or the Contemporary English Version (CEV) did not delete those verses. Instead, they kept them and alerted the reader that they were in question. Since these passages are in question, the NWT should have not deleted them. As a result, the NWT deleted forty-even different verses from the New Testament. Here are just some of the examples: Matthew 17:21; 18:11; 23:14; Mark 7:16; 9:44, 46; 11:26; 15:28; Luke 17:36; 23:17; John 5:4; 7:53- 8:11; Acts 15:34; 28:29; and Romans 16:24.
Translation – Hebrew Words Added
The translators of the NWT also changed the meaning of the New Testament by replacing the words “Lord and “God” with “Jehovah” two hundred and thirty-seven times. Here are three examples from the NWT:
. . . in order to walk worthily of Jehovah to the end of fully pleasing [him] as YOU go on bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the accurate knowledge of God . . . Col. 1:10 (NWT)
In fact, let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from Jehovah; he is an indecisive man, unsteady in all his ways. James 1:7-8 (NWT)
Happy is the man that keeps on enduring trial, because on becoming approved he will receive the crown of life, which Jehovah promised to those who continue loving him. James 1:12 (NWT)
The NASB reads as follows,
. . . so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God . . . Col 1:10 (NAS95S)
For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways. James 1:7-8 (NAS95S)
Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him. James 1:12 (NAS95S)
An examination of the Greek texts of the first two passages reveals that the NWT translators ignored the normal meaning of the word kurios and replaced it with “Jehovah.” The Greek word kurios means “Lord” and not “Jehovah.” “Jehovah” is a transliteration of the Hebrew word YWH or YHWH.
In the third passage, James 1:12, the NWT translators inserted “Jehovah.” Since the New Testament is written in Greek, there is no justification for inserting a word translated from the Hebrew, other than a desire to inflict one’s theological belief onto the text. It should be noted that the NASB italicized “Lord” in their translation in order to communicate that the Greek word kurios does not appear in the original Greek text of James 1:12. It was added for readability. The NWT did not provide any indication. This demonstrates that the NWT is not concerned enough to communicate how accurately the translation compares to the actual Greek text. These changes have occurred to make their “Bible” conform to their theology. An excellent Bible will provide an accurate translation, indicating all textual variations, and will leave the theological difficulties to the reader or theologian to sort through. Instead, the NWT has changed the translation to avoid conflict with their beliefs. The next section illustrates this point further.
Translation – Mistranslations
In many key places throughout the New Testament, the NWT radically differs from the other major translations. Here are three examples out of numerous possible examples.
Our first example occurs in John 1:1 where the NWT changes the normally accepted translation “the Word was God” to “the Word was a god.” Here is the NWT translation. The NASB version occurs below it.
In [the] beginning the Word was, and the Word was with God, and the Word was a god. John 1:1 (NWT)
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. John 1:1 (NAS95S)
The NWT translation is driven by their belief that Jesus is not part of a triune Godhead. They do not believe in a trinity. They believe that Jesus was initially Michael the Archangel. The Jehovah’s Witnesses teach that Jesus was neither a man nor god and eventually became a “mighty spirit” who now reigns as king. But the Koine Greek does not support their translation that the Word was “a god.” Unlike the English language, the Koine Greek does not have an indefinite article. There is only a definite article. Here is a transliterated version of the Greek text into English for the phrase “the word was God” in John 1:1
. . . kai theos en ho logos.
The first word kai means “and.” The second word theos means “God” and “ho” is the definitive article meaning “the.” The last Greek word means “word.” The Greek language indicates the subject by attaching the definite article to the subject. Therefore, ho logos is the subject and theos is the predicate. It is an error to translate this phrase as “the Word was a god” by arguing that the definite article does not appear before theos. It is also an error to insert the indefinite article before theos. It should be noted that the predicate confers on “the Word” the same substance, nature, or essence as the theos. That is, the Word has all of the attributes of God. Or put another way, the logos is just like theos in every way. If the definite article were attached to both the logos and theos, then the Greek would communicate that the logos and theos were one person. That is, there would be not a trinity that included God the Father and the Word – Jesus Christ. In the early Christian era this was known as the heresy of Sabellianism. The following quotes help to clarify the issue. They come from the biblical scholars B. F. Wescott and F. F. Bruce,
The predicate (God) stands emphatically first, as in iv. 4. It is necessarily without the article (qeos and not ho theos) inasmuch as it describes the nature of the’ Word and does not identify His Person. It would be pure Sabellianism to say “the Word was ho theos.” No idea of inferiority of nature is suggested by the form of expression, which simply affirms the true deity of the Word. Compare for the converse statement of the true humanity of Christ . . . On the other hand it will be noticed that “the Word” is placed in personal relation to “God” (ho theos) spoken of absolutely in the second clause; while in the third clause “the Word” is declared to be “God,” and so included in the unity of the Godhead. Thus we are led to conceive that the divine nature is essentially in the Son, and at the same time that the Son can be regarded, according to that which is His peculiar characteristic, in relation to God as God. He is the “image of God” . . . and not simply of the Father.
The structure of the third clause in verse I, theos en ho logos, demands the translation “The Word was God.” Since logos has the article preceding it, it is marked out as the subject. The fact that theos is the first word after the conjunction kai (“and”) shows that the main emphasis of the clause lies on it. Had theos as well as logos been preceded by the article the meaning would have been that the Word was completely identical with God, which is impossible if the Word was also ‘with God’. What is meant is that the Word shared the nature and being of God, or (to use a piece of modern jargon) was an extension of the personality of God. The NEB paraphrase “what God was, the Word was,” brings out the meaning of the clause as successfully as a paraphrase can. John intends that the whole of his gospel shall be read in the light of this verse. The deeds and words of Jesus are the deeds and words of God; if this be not true, the book is blasphemous.”
One should also note that a Greek grammatical rule known as Colwell’s rule states that when a predicate nominative (theos) precedes the verb it cannot be considered indefinite. This means the WBS violated a basic Greek grammar rule. As expected, the WBTS’ takes exception to the rule, but unsuccessfully. In summary, the NWT has ignored the basics of Greek grammar in order to push their theological viewpoint. They have also missed the obvious flow of this verse. Dr. J. R. Mantey in reference to the NWT of John 1:1 has said it is “a shocking mistranslation. Obsolete and incorrect. It is neither scholarly nor reasonable to translate John 1:1 ‘The Word was a god.'”
The next passage changes the meaning of the Koine Greek text flagrantly. Here is the NWT followed by the NASB translation, and then the Greek text (in italics).
. . . for YOU know that it is from Jehovah YOU will receive the due reward of the inheritance. SLAVE for the Master, Christ. Col. 3:24 (NWT)
. . . knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve. Col 3:24 (NAS95S)
eidotes oti apo kuriou apolempsesthe ten antapodosin tes klhronomias to kurio Cristo douleuete.
First, notice that the NWT replaced the Greek word kuriou that is normally translated as “Lord” with “Jehovah.” Jehovah is a Hebrew word that does not appear in the Greek text. Second, the NWT arbitrarily substitutes the Greek word for Lord, kurio, for “Master” later in the verse. Note that kuriou is equivalent to kurio. The endings only denote case and do not change the basic meaning of the word. Why translate the Greek word for “Lord” as Jehovah in the first part of the verse and “Master” in the last part? The NWT does not want the reader to understand that the entire verse is about Jesus and that Jesus is God.
Our next and last passage deals directly with Jesus as the Creator of all things.
. . . He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; 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 Col. 1:15-17 (NWT)
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities — all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. Col 1:15-17 (NAS95S)
The NWT leaves the first sentence unchanged. This agrees with the NASB. However, the reader should be aware that the word “firstborn” does not mean that Jesus was created. A quick comparison of Colossians 1:15 to Colossians 1:18 reveals that the word actually means “priority one.” For a further explanation of the meaning of this word please visit “What does it mean that Jesus was the firstborn of creation?” Therefore, if we rephrase the statement “firstborn of all creation,” we have Jesus is “the priority one of creation.” He is the priority one of everything. The Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that since Jesus was Michael the archangel and was created first, as a result he could not have created everything. Therefore, they have added the word “other” repeatedly in this section. Why add the additional words? If the additional words were not added, the passage would teach that Jesus created everything, except for Himself. They have suppressed the meaning of the Greek – Jesus did create everything. He was God and is God. He was never created.
The New World Translation is a poor translation from the original Koine Greek. Words have been added, deleted, and modifications made to make the text to eliminate doctrinal difficulties and to make the text agree with their theology. I would not recommend it to anyone. The book is in violation of the warning in Revelation 22:18-19.
I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues which are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his part from the tree of life and from the holy city, which are written in this book. Rev 22:18-19 (NAS95S)
Walter Martin. The Kingdom of the Cults. Bethany House Publishers. 1997.
Rhodes & Hanegraaff. Reasoning from the Scriptures with the Jehovah’s Witnesses. 1993.
4. From the Scriptures, 276.
11. Metzger, Bruce M, The New World Translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures, The Bible Translator. July 1964, p. 151.
12. Martin and Mantey on the New World Translation” (C118/$6) (http://www.equip.org/perspectives/new-world-translation).
14. Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc. The Kingdom Interlinear Translation of the Greek Scriptures, 1985. P. 11, 12; (http://www.thearmchairscholar.org/id50.html).
16. Jehovah’s Witnesses website (http://watchtower.org/e/19951101/article_02.htm.
17. Jehovah’s Witnesses website (http://www.watchtower.org/e/20050915/article_02.htm).
18. B. F. Wescott. The Gospel According to St. John. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1975. p. 3.
19. F. F. Bruce. The Gospel and Epistles of John. Eerdmans Publishing Co. Grand Rapids, MI. 1983. p. 31.
20. John MacArthur. John 1-11, The MacArthur New Testament Commentary. Moody Publishing Co. 2006. p. 18.
Reference Links:Is it okay to be friends with a false teacher?
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