The New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures - Translation or Mis-Translation?

Up to the year 1950 the Watchtower Society had used the King James and the American Standard Versions of the Bible in their door to door preaching work. This had always presented problems for the Society, and of course, the Witness who knocked on the door of a knowledgeable Christian. Because of the Watchtower’s teaching that Jesus is not God but merely the Archangel Michael - a ‘mighty god’ but not Almighty God, the use of the above two Bibles posed many problems for the Witnesses, especially where the text plainly showed that Jesus was a part of the Triune God as understood in Christianity. The Watchtower are quick to point out that the word "Trinity" does not appear in the Bible and this is, of course, true. However, all the implications are there. In their booklet Should You Believe in the Trinityon page 12, they state ‘If people were to read the Bible from cover to cover without any preconceived ideas of a Trinity, would they arrive at such a concept on their own? Not at all.’ I personally would take exception to this statement.

As an ex-Witness myself, I had great problems when I read a reputable Bible and found verses that spoke of God and Jesus being one; of the Holy Spirit having a personality and able to teach,

and I thought, how on earth can an abstract force (which, is the Watchtower’s teaching on the Holy Spirit) be grieved, or teach others? Whilst it is not my intention to go into the Doctrine of the Trinity in this article, I use it merely to show how the Watchtower Society had to supplant the standard Bibles available at that time in order for its members to successfully defend the distorted views they held. As an aside, the term ‘Theocratic Organisation’ is not to be found in the Bible either, yet it is taught and accepted as truth by all Witnesses.

The year 1950 saw the release of the first volume of the New World Translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures. This was a single volume containing the Greek scriptures only (New Testament) and was followed by other volumes of the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) during the next ten years, starting with vol.1 (Genesis to Ruth) in 1953.

Much trouble was to front the Watchtower Society over the following years as they met opposition from different quarters over the bias in their translation. In support of their New World Translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures, they had quoted Professor Julias Mantey and, as is the case with many Watchtower quotations (see our articles Lies & Deceptions), they had distorted what he had said to make it appear as though he supported their views. As a result, Professor Mantey wrote to the Watchtower Society, requesting that they desist from using his works in such an erroneous manner.

The Watchtower also quoted Johannes Greber in support of their rendering of John 1:1. According to their book Make Sure of All Things (1965 p.489),

‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was a god . . . Based on the oldest manuscripts (a translation from German into English; 1937), by Johannes Greber.’

However, in a ‘Questions from Readers’ item in The Watchtower of April 1 1983 (p.31), the publishers made it appear that they had recently realised that Greber had relied on the ‘Spiritworld’ in arriving at his translation and hence, ‘The Watchtower [had] deemed it improper to make use of a translation that has such a close rapport with spiritism.’ The truth of the matter is however, that the Watchtower Society knew that Greber was a spiritist as far back as 1956 (see The Watchtower Feb 15, 1956 p.110).

Says Johannes Greber in the introduction of his translation of The New Testament, copyrighted in 1937: "I myself was a Catholic priest, and until I was forty-eight years old had never as much as believed in the possibility of communicating with the world of God's spirits. The day came, however, when I involuntarily took my first step toward such communication, and experienced things that shook me to the depths of my soul.

In 1961, the five individual O.T. volumes were combined into a single volume and subsequently revised in 1970, 1971 and 1984. As David Reed notes in his book Jehovah's Witness Literature,the only revision of major doctrinal significance was the change, made in 1971, at Hebrews 1:6 where the rendering was changed from 'let all God's angels worship him' to, 'let all God's angels do obeisance to him'. (From 1879 through 1953 the Watchtower Society taught that Jesus should be worshipped. In 1954 the teaching was reversed, but the Bible verse was not altered to agree until the revision of 1971).

This is the history of the New World Translation, a Bible version acclaimed by the Watchtower as the only true translation available today because, according to them, it alone upholds the name Jehovah throughout the Old and the New Testaments. However, a close examination of the text exposes that they have not only added the name Jehovah to the New Testament, where there is no evidence in the Greek manuscripts for its inclusion, but the text itself has been radically changed in many instances - with words being added or taken away or different words being used to distort the meaning of the text to suit their own teachings - particularly with regard to the deity of Jesus. In this article, we will examine some of these altered texts by comparing the New World Translation (NWT) with the King James Version (KJV) and, since we will not be able to deal with all of the changes to the text, we will provide the titles of a number of books, which will assist both Christians and ex-Witnesses who wish to pursue this subject further.

Col 1:15-17 KJV ‘Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature: For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: And he is before all things, and by him all things consist.’

Col 1:15-17 NWT ‘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’

The Watchtower Society, without any authority whatsoever, has inserted the word ‘other’ in order to support their false teaching that Christ is a created being. They claim that, since Christ is the ‘firstborn’’ (vs.15) and the ‘beginning’ (vs18), He is, therefore, the first one created; the beginning of all creation and hence, the word ‘other’ is implied. In his book, The J.W's Bible, Gerald Wright explains that:

‘The word first-born (Greek - Prototokos and not Protoktisis which means 'first created') can mean the first one born, but it can also mean the preeminent one. For example Israel was God's firstborn nation; yet Israel was not the first nation to be born (Exodus 4:22). Also, some children became the firstborn when they were not the first ones born (Genesis 27 - Jacob) . . . Thus the word does not have to mean what they say it means, ie the first one born. It can just as well mean the preeminent one. Indeed this is precisely the connotation which must be applied to the word in Colossians one, for it is used in such a fashion throughout the text. Christ is called the firstborn from the dead when, in fact, he was not the first to be raised from the dead (John 11:44) . . . The word 'beginning' is not limited to the meaning the JW's insist on either. Christ being called the beginning no more makes him the first one created than it does the Father, who is also called such (Rev 21:6). Christ certainly was not created as the first thing in the beginning, for we have already seen that he continually existed before and at the time of the beginning (Col 1:17; John 1:1). Christ could not very well be the beginning of the beginning when he existed before the beginning began! (p.42)’

Acts 20:28 KJV ‘Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.

Acts 20:28 NWT ‘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].’

The Watchtower Society has translated this passage to separate the word ‘God’ from the word ‘blood’ by adding [Son]. The only reason for adding the word Son was to hide the fact that it was God who shed His blood for us.

The title Holy Ghost (the third person of the Trinity) has also been reduced to (lower case)‘holy spirit’ to conform to the Watchtower Society’s teaching that the Spirit is merely the impersonal ‘active force’ that Jehovah uses to accomplish his will.

In his book Reasoning from the Scriptures with the Jehovah's Witnesses, Ron Rhodes maintains that:

The New World Translation rendering of this verse goes against all legitimate translations of Scripture. For example the NAS refers to "the church of God which he purchased with His own blood." The NIV refers to "the church of God, which he bought with his own blood." The KJV refers to "the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood." Why do these standard translations render the text this way?. One reason is that there is not a single Greek manuscript containing the word 'Son'.’ (p.86)

Ron Rhodes goes on to suggest that we might ask a Witness:

  1. Why does the Watchtower Society insert the word ‘Son’ into this verse when not a single NT Greek manuscript contains the word?
  2. Do you think it is acceptable to insert words into the Bible that are not found in the original manuscripts?

Heb 1:8 KJV ‘But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom.’

Heb 1:8 NWT ‘But with reference to the Son: God is your throne forever and ever, and [the] sceptre of your kingdom is the sceptre of uprightness’

This passage is a very powerful testimony from the Father concerning the equality of the Son with Him. The Father, in fact, refers to His Son, as God - Theos. In distorting this text, so as to avoid the deity of the Son, the Watchtower has really stretched the imagination and I am moved to ask, just what does the statement ‘God is your throne’ mean? This statement is a quote from Psalm 45:6 which reads ‘Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: the sceptre of thy kingdom is a right sceptre.’ which, incidentally, the Watchtower has also changed to match them up in their perverted translation. Why do they contradict every reputable Hebrew and Greek scholar? Why do they contradict every other reputable version?

The entire context of Hebrews chapter 1 teaches that the Son is God, equal to the Father as deity, the Eternal, and sits with the Father on the heavenly throne. As Gerald Wright maintains:

This Son possesses the nature of God, 'the effulgence of His glory.' Only the true God possesses such glory: 'I am Jehovah, that is my name; and my glory will I not give to another' (Isiah 42:8). Yet this text and many others say that Christ possesses the glory of God the Father. Thus he is not another as far as equality is concerned; he is one with the Father (cf John 1:14; 17:5) (p.21)

Acts 20:7 KJV ‘And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread . . .’

Acts 20:7 NWT ‘On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to have a meal . . .’

This text has been altered to support the Watchtower Society’s annual celebration of communion, known by the Jehovah’s Witnesses as The Memorial. Concerning this, Gerald Wright contends:

It must be noted that the NWT contains a modernising or interpretation of the original text which destroys the true meaning. Their change of 'breaking bread' to 'meal' is without support. The Greek does not say they had been gathered to have a 'meal' It says to 'break bread' (Klasai = 'to break,' Arton = 'bread'). A literal translation is not at all difficult here, and the text needs no such interpretive revision as they have supplied (p.72)

A look at the Watchtower Society’s Kingdom Interlinear Translation of the Greek Scriptures is interesting here for the Greek text (klasai arton) has the English translation beneath it - and it reads ‘to break bread’ whilst, in the NWT it is changed to read ‘meal’ (Gr. aleuron).

Matt 3:3 KJV ‘For this is he that was spoken of by the prophet Esaias, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.’

Matt 3:3 NWT ‘This, in fact, is the one spoken of through Isaiah the prophet in these words: Listen! Someone is crying out in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way of Jehovah, YOU people! Make his roads straight.’

In this text, the Watchtower Society has John preparing the way for Jehovah when it is clearly in reference to his preparing the way for the Christ (Matt 3:1:, John 1:15; 3:28-30; cf Isiah 40:3; Mal 3:1)

Titus 2:13 KJV ‘Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ;’

Titus 2:13 NWT ‘while we wait for the happy hope and glorious manifestation of the great God and of [the] Saviour of us, Christ Jesus’

With regard to this text, Gerald Wright claims that

‘The NWT has insidiously added another article (where none was nor was needed) in order to make it appear that two persons are under discussion here - ‘the great God’ [Father, according to them] and ‘the Saviour’ [the Son]. First the witnesses argue that it is proper to add the indefinite article ‘a’ to an anarthrous noun [in John 1:1] and now they want to add the definite article ‘the’ (See Machen, New Testament Greek for Beginners, p 23 #26). They could not leave this passage unmolested for it conflicts with their concept of Christ. He is a small god and not the great God (Isaiah 9:6 - a small mighty God??) Yet this text allows but one person to be under consideration - Christ.’ (p.50)

J.W.Mantey, in his authoritative Manual Grammar of the New Testament, p.147, positively affirms that

Titus 2:13 asserts that ‘Jesus is the great God and Saviour’

Ron Rhodes maintains that -

‘A study of the Old Testament indicates that it is only God who saves. In Isiah 43:11, God asserts: "I, even I, am the Lord (Yahweh), and apart from me there is no saviour" This is an extremely important verse, for it indicates that (1) a claim to be saviour is, in itself, a claim to Deity; and (2) there is only one saviour - God. Since the New Testament clearly refers to Jesus as the Saviour, the only conclusion that makes sense is that Christ is indeed God.’ (p.89)

The Witnesses do not know this glorious Christ, so as to worship Him and they do not have such a glorious Redeemer to save them. Further, they have no hope of glory, for they do not believe that Christ is He (John 8:24). Further, Jesus said, ‘He that honoureth not the Son honoureth not the father which hath sent him’ (John 5:23). ‘Of a truth, those who wrest the scriptures do so unto their own destruction’ (II Peter 3:16).

Suggested books for further study of this subject :-