Major Problems with the New World Translation

Pocket edition of the New World Translation of...

The Jehovah Witnesses love to knock on your door and promote their New World Translation (NWT) as the best Bible available to read and study.  A few months back I responded to a question concerning the NWT and decided to post my answer.

Dear Steve,

The New World Translation used by Jehovah Witnesses comes from the actual “Dead Sea Scrolls” that were written in Hebrew. It contains exact scriptures (in English) and puts God’s name back in the Bible over 7,000 times where it is supposed to be. That is the only difference in their Bible. Why do the newer versions of the King James Bible leave out God’s name? Psalm 83:18 clearly says his name is Jehovah. Other scriptures are Exodus 6:3, Isaiah 12:2, Isaiah 26:4, Genesis 22:14, Exodus 17:15, and Judges 6:24.  In the newer King James versions, his name is taken completely out.  In my opinion to truly know someone it starts with knowing their name. How can you truly know someone if you don’t even know what their name is? Therefore, would you want to use a Bible that leaves God’s name out, or would you want to use one that sanctifies it? The choice is yours.

Angela

Dear Angela,
Thanks for writing and giving your view. I will begin by correcting a few obvious errors in your comments. First, your translation does not come directly from the “Dead Sea Scrolls.” The primary source material for the Old Testament in the NWT was Kittel’s Biblia Hebracia. This edition first appeared in 1906. Multiple secondary sources were used including the Dead Sea Scrolls.

The New Testament for the NWT was taken from the Westcott and Hort manuscripts. I have a Kingdom Interlinear Translation of the Greek Scriptures published by your organization and it admits Westcott and Hort were the primary New Testament text utilized. These manuscripts are accepted as valid texts for the New Testament. The problem is not the original New Testament texts; the problem is how the Greek in the NWT was translated into English and how words were added that were never in the original text.

Second, Jehovah is not a Biblical word. It was created by combining the original Hebrew name for God YHWH and adonai (word used by Jews who didn’t want to say God’s name). The resulting combined word, “Jehovah” has been used for the name God by many groups but it is not found in the Bible. Nowhere do you find the word Jehovah in the original languages, Hebrew or Greek.

Third, forcing the word Jehovah into the New Testament is simply wrong. When your translators did this they went against thousands of Greek manuscripts of the New Testament; some of which date back to the second century. Instead the New Testament uses the words “Lord” [Greek: Kurios] and “God” [Greek: theos] when talking about God. The writers never used Jehovah, even when quoting the Old Testament. The Greek New Testament source for the New World Translation, Westcott and Hort, never used Jehovah. They used kurios for Lord and theos for God. The Kingdom Interlinear confirms Jehovah was never in the original text. This interlinear published by the Watchtower Organization shows how kurios (Lord) and theos (God) were changed to Jehovah in the English translation. Stating God’s name was left out of the King James or any other version of the Bible is false. Angela, I suggest finding a Kingdom Interlinear at your hall so you can see for yourself.  When your organization says they removed the name, they are lying to you.

Finally, let me address additional problems with the New World Translation. When it comes to this translation we find it almost universally rejected by noted scholars in the field of Biblical translations. Dr. Ron Rhodes, who wrote “Reasoning from the Scriptures with the Jehovah Witnesses,” stated:

“The New World translation is an incredibly biased translation. Dr. Robert Countess, who wrote a doctoral dissertation on the Greek text of the New World translation, concluded the translation ‘has been sharply unsuccessful in keeping doctrinal considerations from influencing the actual translation…It must be viewed as a radically biased piece of work. At some points it is actually dishonest. At others it is neither modern nor scholarly.’ British scholar H.H. Rowley asserted, ‘from the beginning to end this volume is a shining example of how the Bible should not be translated.’ Indeed, Rowley said, this translation is ‘an insult to the Word of God.’”

Dr. Julius Manti, author of A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament, calls the New World translation “a shocking mistranslation.” Dr. Bruce M. Metzger, professor of New Testament at Princeton University, calls the New World translation “a frightful mistranslation,” “erroneous,” “pernicious,” and “reprehensible.” Dr. William Barclay concluded that “the deliberate distortion of truth by this sect is seen in their New Testament translation. It is abundantly clear that a sect which can translate the New Testament like that is intellectually dishonest.”

It is highly revealing that the Watchtower Society has always resisted efforts to identify members of the New World Translation committee. The claim was they preferred to remain anonymous and humble, giving God the credit and glory for this translation. However, as former Jehovah witness David Reed notes, “an unbiased observer will quickly note that such anonymity also shields the translators from any blame for errors or distortions in their renderings. And it prevents scholars from checking their credentials.”

The Watchtower Society must have been utterly embarrassed when the names of the translators of the New World translation were made known to the public. The reason for concern was the translation committee was completely unqualified for the task. Four of the five men in the committee had no Hebrew or Greek training whatsoever (they had only a high school education)[1]. The Fifth, Fred W. Franz, claimed to know Hebrew and Greek, but upon examination under oath in a court of law in Edinburg Scotland he failed a simple Hebrew test.

In court Franz was asked if he knew Hebrew and he said yes. He said he had a command of various languages including Hebrew, Greek, Latin, Spanish, German, and French. When asked if he speaks Hebrew, he said no. He was then asked if he could translate the fourth verse of Genesis into Hebrew. His answer was NO! The fact was Franz, like the others on the committee, did not have the knowledge to translate Hebrew or Greek. The truth is Franz dropped out of the University of Cincinnati after his sophomore year and even while there, he had not studied anything related to theological issues[2].

More could be said about the errors of the New World Translation but I will stop here for now. Angela the New World Translation should be avoided at all costs.



[1] Rhodes, Ron, Reasoning from the Scriptures with the Jehovah Witnesses, Harvest House Publ. , 1993, p. 97

[2] Ibid, p. 97

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

{ 52 comments… add one }

  • Howard June 28, 2014, 8:39 am

    Steve,

    Yes, this is a very interesting aspect of the Bible and its history, and it is also true that many people, not just you, are unaware of its existence. And that’s a real problem because if God’s name, or some representation of it, was in the original autographs, I believe it has far reaching implications.

    You mention interlinear, I should point out that a Greek interlinear is where someone takes a specific Greek critical edition and incorporates an English translation under each Greek word. A publisher of an interlinear is not permitted to change the Greek critical edition. Thus, your answer as to why the Kingdom interlinear has kurios in the Greek text. The KIT reproduces exactly the Greek text of Westcott and Hort. So your statement should actually be, “Today’s Greek critical editions don’t seem to have a problem using kurios instead of nomina sacra.” Critical editions are compilations of existing Greek manuscripts, and show what the editors think is the most accurate reading. Here is a link of some of these Greek texts: http://www.skypoint.com/members/waltzmn/CriticalEds.html. The use or none use of the word kurios in these texts is merely the choice of the editors. Now when someone transcribes a manuscript, the nomina sacra is usually preserved. Notice the image of the text called “Das Neue Testament auf Papyrus”, part way down the linked page.

    I understand your reluctance to continue this discussion, which is fine, first because I have provided you with the most relevant evidence of the situation, and it is now up to you to form an opinion for yourself based on the evidence. Second, it was never my intention to get you to believe anything, my intention was to bring to your attention the factual errors on your original post.

    I see you want to go straight to the Trinity debate. You do realize that unlike the last discussion there are really no FACTS to consider, merely interpretation of Scripture, opinions, and ambiguous word definitions. So if you want to do this, we have to start at the beginning. First I will answer your questions.

    1. Who do you say the Father is?

    The Father is YHWH (Jehovah) a single unique being who is the creator of heaven and earth, the only true God.

    2. Who do you say Jesus is?

    He is a single unique being created by YHWH as his first creative act, he is the image and exact representation of YHWH and is the son of God (YHWH), who later surrendered up his spiritual existence to have his life force (spirit) transferred to the womb of Mary to bring to life the perfect and totally human man Jesus. Then sacrificing that perfect human life as a corresponding ransom for the sins of the perfect man Adam. Then was resurrected to once again reclaim his spiritual existence in heaven.

    3. Who do you say the Holy Spirit is?

    Well if we break down the words themselves, Holy means something separated for God’s use. Spirit is defined as an invisible active force, like wind or breath. So combined it means an invisible active force separated for God’s use.

    4. What do you think of the doctrine of the Trinity? Do you think it can be established Biblically?

    As you probably have seen by now, I do not believe in the trinity. Can it be established Biblically? Well, that I guess relies on someone’s biases and preconceived ideas. When someone believes it can be established, it usually relies on a small number of so called proof texts that are extremely ambiguous. Second, I find the concept of the trinity illogical in the face of the overall theme of the Bible.

    5. Is the Bible historically reliable? Is God the author of the Bible (using human writers)?

    Yes.

    6. Were the autographs without error?

    Yes.

    Now a couple questions from me, and I’m going to make it simple. Would you define the meaning of the English word God as it is understood today, and then define what the word Theos meant in Israel and surrounding nations in the first century. Finally, define what the word Elohim, El, meant to the Hebrews prior to the first century?

  • Vernon August 22, 2014, 6:41 am

    Howard, your intellectual reasoning greatly deceives you. Your interpretations and summations are biblically inaccurate. Steve’s points were well stated and accurate. No need to debate.

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