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The New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures (NWT) is a translation of the Bible published by the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society in 1961. It is not the first Bible to be published by the group, but is their first original translation of ancient Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic biblical texts. As of 2009, the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania has published more than 159 million copies of the Bible in 79 languages.

History

Until the release of the NWT, Jehovah's Witnesses in English-speaking countries generally used the King James Version or American Standard Version of the Bible. In the literature they have produced, Jehovah's Witnesses have quoted liberally from the King James Version and many other translations over the years.

According to the publishers, one of the main reasons for producing a new translation was that most Bible versions in common use, including the Authorised (King James) Version, employed archaic language. The stated intention was to produce a fresh translation, free of archaisms. Additionally, over the centuries since the King James Version was produced, more copies of earlier manuscripts of the original texts in the Hebrew and Greek languages have become available. The publishers claimed better manuscript evidence had made it possible to determine with greater accuracy what the original writers intended, particularly in more obscure passages. They said linguists better understood certain aspects of the original Hebrew and Greek languages than previously.

In October 1946, the president of the Watch Tower Society, Nathan H. Knorr, proposed a fresh translation of the New Testament, which Jehovah's Witnesses usually refer to as the Christian Greek Scriptures. Work began on December 2, 1947 when the "New World Bible Translation Committee" was formed. On September 3, 1949, Knorr convened a joint meeting of the board of directors of both the Watch Tower Society's New York and Pennsylvania corporations to announce that work on a modern English translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures had been completed and consigned to the Society for printing.

The New World Translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures was released at a convention of Jehovah's Witnesses at Yankee Stadiummarker, New Yorkmarker, on August 2, 1950. The translation of the Old Testament, which Jehovah's Witnesses refer to as the Hebrew Scriptures, was released in five volumes in 1953, 1955, 1957, 1958, and 1960. The complete New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures was released as a single volume in 1961, and has since undergone minor revisions. marginal references that had appeared in the six separate volumes were included in the complete volume in the 1984 revision. The layout resembles the 1901 edition of the American Standard Version.

Translators and Editor

The New World Translation was produced by the anonymous New World Bible Translation Committee, formed about 1947. This committee is said to have comprised unnamed members of multinational background. The New World Bible Translation Committee requested that the Watch Tower Society not publish the names of its members, stating that they did not want to "advertise themselves but let all the glory go to the Author of the Scriptures, God," adding that the translation, "should direct the reader... to... Jehovah God". The publishers believe that "the particulars of [the New World Bible Translation Committee's members] university or other educational training are not the important thing" and that "the translation testifies to their qualification". Former high ranking Watch Tower staff have claimed knowledge of the translators' identities.

Features

The translators use the terms "Hebrew-Aramaic Scriptures" and "Christian Greek Scriptures" rather than "Old Testament" and "New Testament", stating that the use of "testament" was based on a misunderstanding of 2 Corinthians 3:14. When referring to dates in the supplemental material, the abbreviations "B.C.E." (Before the Common Era) and "C.E." (Common Era) are used rather than BC and AD.

The pronoun "you" is printed in small capitals (i.e, YOU) to indicate plurality, as are some verbs when plurality may be unclear. Square brackets [ ] are added around words that were inserted editorially, and double brackets are used to indicate sources considered doubtful. Verbs indicating continuous or progressive action are rendered as such in English, for example "proceeded to rest" rather than "rested" in Genesis 2:2, or "keep on asking" rather than "ask" at Matthew 7:7. Running headings are included at the top of each page to assist in locating texts, and there is an index listing scriptures by subject.

The translation inserts the name Jehovah over 200 times in the New Testament where the original texts refer to God. The basis offered by the translating body is that since the name Jehovah was used liberally in the original Greek and Hebrew manuscripts of the Old Testament, it can be assumed that the lack of references to Jehovah in the New Testament were an oversight on the part of the ancient manuscript writers.

Editions

The New World Translation is distributed in print editions commonly referred to as "Large Print" (four volumes), "Reference", "Regular (or Standard) Hard Cover", "Regular (or Standard) Soft Cover", and "Pocket". The regular editions incorporate the booklet, Bible Topics for Discussion (previously published separately in 1977 but updated for the 1981 and 1984 editions), which provides references to scriptures relating to various topics; several appendices containing arguments for various translation decisions, maps, diagrams and other information; and over 125,000 cross references. The reference edition contains the cross references and adds footnotes about translation decisions, and additional appendices that provide further detail relating to certain translation decisions. Many of the non-English translations lack footnotes, and some add language-specific footnotes.

Kingdom Interlinear

The New World Bible Translation Committee included the English text from the NWT in its 1969 and 1985 editions of the Kingdom Interlinear Translation of the Greek Scriptures. It also incorporates the Greek text published by Westcott and Hort in The New Testament in the Original Greek, and a literal word-for-word translation.

Non-print editions

In 1978, the Watch Tower Society began producing recordings of the NWT on audio cassette, with the New Testament released by 1981 and the Old Testament in three albums released by 1990. In 2004, the NWT was released on compact disc in MP3 format in major languages. Since 2008, audio downloads of the NWT have been made available from the Worldwide Association of Jehovah's Witnesses website in MP3 and AAC formats, including support for Podcasts.

In 1983, the English Braille edition of the NWT's New Testament was released; the complete English Braille edition was released by 1988. NWT editions have since become available in several additional Braille script. In 2006, production of the NWT in American Sign Language began, starting with the Gospel of Matthew.

A diskette edition of the NWT released at 1993
In 1992 a digital edition, New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures—With References, was released, as a set of seven 3½-inch 720 KB diskettes or four 5¼-inch 1.2 MB diskettes, using Folio View software. In 1993, New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures—With References/Insight on the Scriptures was released in English, as a set of 5¼-inch 1.2 MB or 3½-inch 1.44 MB diskettes, containing the New World Translation and the two volumes of Insight. Since 1994, the NWT has been included in the digital research tool, Watchtower Library on CD-ROM, available to baptized Jehovah's Witnesses. The full text of the NWT is also available on the Watch Tower Society's official website.

Languages

As of 2009, the NWT has been published in 79 languages. Translation into other languages is based on the English text, supplemented by comparison with the Hebrew and Greek.

The complete translation of the Holy Scriptures is available in Afrikaans, Albanian, Arabic, Bulgarian, Cebuano, Chinese (Standard, Simplified, Pinyin), Cibemba, Croatian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, English (also Braille), Finnish, French, Georgian, German, Greek, Hungarian, Igbo, Iloko, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Lingala, Macedonian, Malagasy, Maltese, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese (also Braille), Romanian, Russian, Serbian (Cyrillic and Latin scripts), Sesotho, Shona, Slovak, Spanish (also Braille), Swahili, Swedish, Tagalog, Tsonga, Tswana, Turkish, Twi, Xhosa, Yoruba, and Zulu.

The Christian Greek Scriptures (commonly known as the New Testament) is available in American Sign Language, Amharic, Armenian, Brazilian Sign Language, Cambodian, Chichewa, Efik, Estonian, Ewe, Hiligaynon, Hindi, Italian Braille, Kannada, Kinyarwanda, Kirghiz, Kirundi, Luganda, Malayalam, Myanmar, Ossetian, Samoan, Sango, Sepedi, Sinhala, Slovenian, Sranantongo, Tamil, Thai, Tumbuka, and Ukrainian.

Critical review

Overall review

In its review of Bible translations released from 1955 to 1985, The HarperCollins Bible Dictionary listed the New World Translation as one of the major modern translations.

In 2003 Jason BeDuhn, associate professor of religious studies at Northern Arizona University in the United States, published a 200-page study of nine of "the Bibles most widely in use in the English-speaking world," including the New American Bible, The King James Bible and The New International Version. His study examined several passages that are considered controversial, 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 looked for biased attempts to change the meaning. BeDuhn states 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, but adds: "Most of the differences are due to the greater accuracy of the NW as a literal, conservative translation." Though BeDuhn disagrees with certain renderings of the New World Translation, he says that "it emerges as the most accurate of the translations compared," calling it a "remarkably good" translation.

The New Catholic Encyclopedia says of the NWT reference edition: "[Jehovah's Witnesses'] translation of the Bible [has] an impressive critical apparatus. The work is excellent except when scientific knowledge comes into conflict with the accepted doctrines of the movement." It criticizes the NWT's rendering of Kyrios as "Jehovah" in 237 instances in the New Testament, the rendering "means" instead of "is" in Matthew 26:26, and the insertion of "other" at Colossians 1:16-17.G. HÉBERT/EDS, "Jehovah's Witnesses", The New Catholic Encyclopedia, Gale, 20052, Vol. 7, p. 751.

Old Testament

Samuel Haas, in his review of the first volume of the New World Translation of the Hebrew Scriptures, in the Journal of Biblical Literature, stated that "this work indicates a great deal of effort and thought as well as considerable scholarship, it is to be regretted that religious bias was allowed to colour many passages."

Professor 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."

Regarding the NWT's use of English in the first volume of the NWT (Genesis to Ruth), Dr. Harold H. Rowley is critical of what he calls "wooden literalism" and "harsh construction." He characterizes these as "an insult to the Word of God", citing Genesis 15:5, 4:13, 6:3, 18:20, 4:8, 19:22, 24:32 and 24:66 as examples. Rowley concludes, "From beginning to end this volume is a shining example of how the Bible should not be translated."

New Testament

Theologian and televangelist John Ankerberg accused the translators of rendering the NWT to conform "to their own preconceived and unbiblical theology." To support a view of theology overriding appropriate translation, Drs. John Ankerberg and John Weldon cite several examples, such as the NWT's use of "for all time" in Hebrews 9:27: "And as it is reserved for men to die once for all time, but after this a judgment." Ankerberg and Weldon cite Dr. Julius Mantey on this text as saying, "Heb. 9:27, which without any grounds for it in the Greek, is mistranslated in the J. W. Translation ... the phrase "for all time" was inserted in the former versions without any basis in the original for it." Strong's Concordance defines the involved Greek term ἅπαξ ("apax" or "hapax") as either "once" or "once for all". Biblos.com

See also the related term ἐφάπαξ [10857]

Dr. William Barclay concluded that "the deliberate distortion of truth by this sect is seen in the New Testament translation. ... It is abundantly clear that a sect which can translate the New Testament like that is intellectually dishonest."

Edgar J. Goodspeed, translator of the New Testament in An American Translation, wrote in a letter to the Watch Tower Society: "I am interested in the mission work of your people, and its world wide scope, and much pleased with the free, frank and vigorous translation. It exhibits a vast array of sound serious learning, as I can testify."

Dr. Bruce M. Metzger, in reference to the New World Translation of the Greek Scriptures, stated that "on the whole, one gains a tolerably good impression of the scholarly equipment of the translators." Metzger also cites NWT renderings as instances of translating to support doctrine, stating, "the Jehovah's Witnesses have incorporated in their translation of the New Testament several quite erroneous renderings of the Greek." He cites the NWT's comma placement at Luke 23:43 as "In the interest of supporting the doctrine of "soul sleep" held by Jehovah's Witnesses." Another example Metzger offers is the insertion of the word "other" four times in Colossians chapter 1, "making Paul say that Jesus Christ is one among 'other' created things," which he describes as being "in the interest of providing support of [Jehovah's Witnesses'] Unitarianism" and "totally without warrant from the Greek." Metzger characterizes the NWT's use of "Jehovah" in the New Testament as an "introduction"; he writes, "The introduction of the word 'Jehovah' into the New Testament text, in spite of much ingenuity in an argument filled with a considerable amount of irrelevant material (pp. 10–25), is a plain piece of special pleading."

Charles Francis Potter stated about the NWT: "Apart from a few semantic peculiarities like translating the Greek word stauros, as "stake" instead of "cross," and the often startling use of the colloquial and the vernacular, the anonymous translators have certainly rendered the best manuscript texts, both Greek and Hebrew, with scholarly ability and acumen."

Reachout Trust writer Tony Piper concludes it is not a faithful translation of the Scriptures, citing Acts 2:42, 46 and 20:7, 11 as examples. He objects that "the NWT translates it to read that the church simply shared meals together" rather than using the phrase "breaking of bread ... to disguise the fact that the early church celebrated the Lord's Supper more than once a year."

Alexander Thomson wrote: "The translation is evidently the work of skilled and clever scholars, who have sought to bring out as much of the true sense of the Greek text as the English language is capable of expressing. ... We heartily recommend the New World Translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures, published in 1950 by the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society."

Thomas Winter considers the Kingdom Interlinear Translation of the Greek Scriptures as a "highly useful aid toward the mastery of koine (and classical) Greek," adding that the translation "is thoroughly up-to-date and consistently accurate."

Rendering of John 1:1

One of the NWT's most controversial passages is John 1:1. The King James Version, New American Standard Bible, New International Version and Young's Literal Translation all render this verse:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.


The New World Translation renders the same verse:
In [the] beginning the Word was, and the Word was with God, and the Word was a god.


Some other Bible translations render John 1:1 in a similar manner:
  • 1808 "and the Word was a god" - The New Testament, in An Improved Version, Upon the Basis of Archbishop Newcome's New Translation: With a Corrected Text, London.
  • 1864 "and a god was the Word" - The Emphatic Diaglott (J21,interlinear reading), by Benjamin Wilson, New York and London.
  • 1935 "and the Word was divine" - The Bible—An American Translation, by J. M. P. Smith and E. J. Goodspeed, Chicago.
  • 1955 "so the Word was divine" - The Authentic New Testament, by Hugh J. Schonfield, Aberdeen.
  • 1978 "and godlike sort was the Logos" - Das Evangelium nach Johannes, by Johannes Schneider, Berlin.


Arguments for

The absence of the definite article (ho) in the second occurrence of the word theos before the verb in the sentence in Greek is considered significant. The name of this grammatical structure in the Greek is a Qualitative Anarthrous Predicate Noun. In his article, "Qualitative Anarthrous Predicate Nouns: Mark 15:39 and John 1:1", Philip B. Harner said that clauses such as the one in John 1:1, "with an anarthrous predicate preceding the verb, are primarily qualitative in meaning. They indicate that the logos has the nature of theos." He suggests: "Perhaps the clause could be translated, 'the Word had the same nature as God.'"

Dr. Jason BeDuhn states that the NWT's translation of John 1:1 is superior to the other translations he considered. He continues, "It may well be that the NW translators came to the task of translating John 1:1 with as much bias as the other translators did. It just so happens that their bias corresponds in this case to a more accurate translation of the Greek. ... The NW translation of John 1:1 is superior to that of the other eight translations we are comparing. I do not think it is the best possible translation for a modern English reader; but at least it breaks with the KJV tradition followed by all the others, and it does so in the right direction by paying attention to how Greek grammar and syntax actually work."

Another important point to consider is that translators who insist on rendering John 1:1, "The Word was God", do not hesitate to use the indefinite article (a, an) in their rendering of other passages where a singular anarthrous predicate noun occurs before the verb. Thus at John 6:70, The Jerusalem Bible and King James both refer to Judas Iscariot as "a devil", and at John 9:17 they describe Jesus as "a prophet". So they are fundamentally saying that translating John 1:1 as "a god" is okay by their use of that same standard elsewhere in their translation of the Bible. Evidently then, using their own translation to judge them, the translators that insist that the English translation of this verse should be "...and the Word was God." are stating that this is not their preference for the translation.

Arguments against

Dr J. R. Mantey, of the Chicago Northern Baptist Theological Seminary, in reference to the NWT's rendering of John 1:1 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.'" . Of the NWT's rendering "and the Word was a god" at John 1:1, Metzger states it "is not justifiable" and "entirely in accord with the Arian theology of the sect."

References

  1. "Membership and Publishing Statistics", JW-Media.org, Authorized Site of the Office of Public Information of Jehovah's Witnesses, As Retrieved 2009-04-10
  2. "Announcements", The Watchtower, August 1, 1954, page 480
  3. "Bible Knowledge Made Plain Through Modern Translation", The Watchtower, October 15, 1961, page 636
  4. Life Magazine, July 1, 1953, Photo here
  5. Foreword, New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures, 1984.
  6. New York Times, August 3, 1950 p. 19.
  7. The Watchtower, September 15, 1950, p. 320
  8. Walsh vs Honorable James Latham, Court of Session Scotland, 1954, cross examination of Frederick Franz pp. 90-92
  9. The Watchtower, November 15, 1950, p. 454
  10. The Watchtower, December 15, 1974, p. 768.
  11. The Watchtower, December 15, 1974, p. 768
  12. Martin W, Kingdom of the Cults, Expanded Anniversary Edition, October 1997, Bethany House Publishers, p. 123. "While the members of the [NWT] committee have never been identified officially by the Watchtower, many Witnesses who worked at the headquarters during the translation period were fully aware of who the members were. They included Nathan H. Knorr (president of the Society at the time), Frederick W. Franz (who later succeeded Knorr as president), Albert D. Schroeder, George Gangas, and Milton Henschel (currently the president)."
  13. Wills T, M.A., A People For His Name - A History of Jehovah's Witnesses and An Evaluation, Lulu, 2006. Originally published in 1967 by Vantage Press. "[Frederick] Franz is a language scholar of no mean ability-he supervised the translation of the Bible from the original languages into the New World Translation, completed in 1961." (p. 253) Of author Tony Wills, the Preface reads "The Author has been intimately associated with Jehovah's Witnesses for many years, close enough to be able to think as one, but never, at the same time, losing his objectivity."
  14. Appendix 7E in the New World Translation reference edition
  15. The Divine Name That Will Endure Forever p. 24
  16. "Announcements", Our Kingdom Ministry, September 1988, page 4
  17. Jehovah's Witnesses - Proclaimers of God's Kingdom, published by Jehovah's Witnesses, page 614
  18. "Study—Rewarding and Enjoyable", The Watchtower, October 1, 2000, page 16
  19. Jehovah's Witnesses - Proclaimers of God's Kingdom, published 1993 by Jehovah's Witnesses, "Chapter 27: Printing and Distributing God's Own Sacred Word", page 610
  20. ""Between-the-Lines" Translations of the Bible", The Watchtower, November 15, 1969, page 692
  21. Our Kingdom Ministry, September 1978, page 3
  22. Our Kingdom Ministry, October 1981, page 7
  23. The Watchtower, February 15, 1990, page 32
  24. Watchtower Publications Index 1986-2007, "Compact Discs"
  25. Our Kingdom Ministry, August 1983, pages 3-4
  26. Jehovah's Witnesses - Proclaimers of God's Kingdom, published 1993 by Jehovah's Witnesses, "Chapter 27: Printing and Distributing God's Own Sacred Word", pages 614-615
  27. Awake!, November, 2007 p. 30
  28. 2007 Yearbook of Jehovah's Witnesses, published by Jehovah's Witnesses, pages 21-22
  29. "The Compact Disc—What Is It All About?", Awake!, April 22, 1994, page 23
  30. Our Kingdom Ministry, published by Christian Congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses, September 2007, page 3
  31. See The Watchtower (Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania.) May 1, 2009. p.25
  32. Jehovah’s Witnesses—Proclaimers of God’s Kingdom (1993) Chap. 27 p. 611, subheading Translation Into Other Languages.
  33. Robert G. Bratcher, "English Bible, The" The HarperCollins Bible Dictionary (revised and updated edition of Harper's Bible Dictionary, 1st ed. c1985), HarperCollins Publishers/The Society of Biblical Literature, 1996, p. 292.
  34. BeDuhn, Jason D. Truth in Translation: Accuracy and Bias in English Translations of the New Testament, 2004. BeDuhn compared the King James, the (New) Revised Standard, the New International, the New American Bible, the New American Standard Bible, the Amplified Bible, the Living Bible, Today's English and the NWT versions in Matthew 28:9, Phillipians 2:6, Colossians 1:15-20, Titus 2:13, Hebrews 1:8, John 8:58, John 1:1.
  35. Journal of Biblical Literature, Vol. 74, No. 4, (Dec. 1955), p. 283.
  36. Interview quotation as cited by: "The Bible in Modern Times", "All Scripture Is Inspired of God and Beneficial", ©1990 Watch Tower, page 326
  37. Rowley, H.H., How Not To Translate the Bible, The Expository Times, 1953; 65; 41
  38. See Ankerberg, John and John Weldon, 2003, The New World Translation of the Jehovah's Witnesses, accessible online
  39. SearchGodsWord.org
  40. Rhodes R, The Challenge of the Cults and New Religions, The Essential Guide to Their History, Their Doctrine, and Our Response, Zondervan, 2001, p. 94
  41. "Loyally advocating the Word of God," The Watchtower (15 March, 1982), p. 23.
  42. Metzger, Bruce M, The New World Translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures, The Bible Translator 15/3 (July 1964), p. 151.
  43. Bruce M Metzger, "Jehovah's Witnesses and Jesus Christ," Theology Today, (April 1953 p. 74); see also Metzger, "The New World Translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures," The Bible Translator (July 1964)
  44. Metzger, Bruce M, Persistent Problems Confronting Bible Translators, Bibliotheca Sacra / July-September 1993: 279
  45. Metzger, Bruce M, The New World Translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures, The Bible Translator 15/3 (July 1964), pp. 150-153.
  46. Metzger, Bruce M., The New World Translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures, The Bible Translator 15/3 (July 1964), pp. 150-153.
  47. The faiths men live by, Kessinger Publishing, 1954, 239. ISBN 1425486525.
  48. Tony Piper, member of Reachout Trust examines the New World Translation http://www.reachouttrust.org/articles/jw/jwnwt.htm
  49. Thomson A, The Differentiator, 1952, 55,57 No. 2, 6
  50. Thomas N. Winter, Review of New World Bible Translation Committee's The Kingdom Interlinear Translation of the Greek Scriptures, Classics and Religious Studies Faculty Publications, Classics and Religious Studies Department, University of Nebraska – Lincoln, April-May 1974: 376
  51. http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=John%201:1&version=NASB;NIV;YLT;KJV
  52. http://www.watchtower.org/bible/joh/chapter_001.htm
  53. Journal of Biblical Literature, 1973, pp. 85, 87
  54. BeDuhn, Jason D. Truth in Translation: Accuracy and Bias in English Translations of the New Testament, 2004: 125, 133


Further information

Online Edition



Supportive

  • Stafford, Greg: Jehovah's Witnesses Defended. [ISBN 0-9659814-7-9]
  • Furuli, Rolf: The Role of Theology and Bias in Bible Translation: With a special look at the New World Translation of Jehovah's Witnesses, 1999. [ISBN 0-9659814-9-5]
  • Byatt, Anthony and Flemings, Hal (editors): Your Word is Truth', Essays in Celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures (1950, 1953), 2004. [ISBN 0-9506212-6-9]
  • The Coptic Evidence
  • In Defense of the New World Translation


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