Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that their version of the Bible (the New World Translation or NWT) is the only correct one, and that mainstream Christians bash them for no reason. Of course they are guilty of bashing as well, and the general arguments they present against our Bible (bias, tampering, etc.) apply at least as much to theirs, and uniquely to their stepping out of the bounds of semantic range in order to turn Jesus into a lesser being.
Jehovah is an Anglicized version of the Hebrew word YHWH which means
I am. The NWT is fraught with translation errors (see these scholarly assessments). For example, they render Zech. 12:10b as
and they will look to the one whom they pierced when the Hebrew says
and they will look upon me, whom they pierced. According to the Masoretic text, the word used here is the compound “Ahl’lee”, meaning “upon me”. Here are scriptures that challenge the belief that Jesus is either not divine at all or a lesser being:
- Isaiah 9:6 How can the Son be “the mighty God, the everlasting Father”?
- Isaiah 44:24 and Col. 1:16 YHWH and Jesus are the Creator.
- Isaiah 43:11, Luke 2:11, Acts 4:10-12 YHWH and Jesus are the Savior.
- Ex. 34:14, Daniel 7:14 YHWH and Jesus are worshiped as God.
- John 1:1-3, 14, 8:58-59, 10:30-33, Rom. 9:5, Heb. 1:8 Jesus is God (“I AM”, I and Father are one)
- Phil. 2:5-11, Col. 1:15, 1 Tim. 3:16, 1 John 4:2 Jesus is God in the flesh
- Psalm 110:1, Rev. 22:16 Jesus the Lord is both the Root and Offspring of David.
- Col. 1:14-20
Firstborn of all creationdoesn’t mean
first created thingbut
one with authority ruling over all creation(see Ex 4:22, Job 18:13, Ps 89:27, Jer. 31:9; Jesus is also called
the firstborn from the deadin Rev. 1:5). Also supported by v. 16 which shows that Jesus created EVERYTHING that was created (which, of course, doesn t include God, who is eternal).
- Gen. 1:26, Ex. 3:14, Psalm 45:6-7 Elohiym is a plural noun but is used with a singular verb.
- Mat. 18:19 “in the name (not names) of the Father, Son, Spirit
- Isaiah 46:9, 48:12-16, John, Acts 2:33, 19:2, Romans 8:11, 27, 15:16, 1 Cor. 12:4-6, 2 Cor. 3:17-18, 5:5, 13:14, Gal. 4:6, Eph. 1:13-14, Heb. 9:14, 1 Peter 1:2, 3:18, Rev. 22:13, 16 all show the trinitarian nature of God.
Here are scriptures showing that we cannot be saved by our good works:
- Isaiah 64:6 All our ”goodness“ is like filthy rags
- Php. 3:9 Saved by Jesus’ righteousness, not ours
- Eph 2:8-9 You are saved by grace (gift, not reward)
- Gal 2:20-3:5 Receive Spirit by believing
- Rom. 3 All have sinned (why only God can pay for our sins)
- Rom. 6:23 Gift of God is eternal life
- Rom. 10:9 Believe and confess
- Rom. 4:5 Salvation without works
- Heb. 12:2 Jesus author of our faith
- John 14:6 Jesus only way to Father
And of course, scripture says that salvation is guaranteed:
- 1 John 5:13 Believers KNOW they are saved
One thing people should ask themselves is how they determine truth or authority. Without an objective standard that can be investigated, truth becomes relative and subjective. If truth is changeable or arguable, then there is no such thing as truth, and one person’s or group’s truth is no better than anyone else’s.
Another question is what the JW faith has to offer. Do they have assurance that they’ll ever get to Heaven? How good is good enough? Can they lose their place in Heaven? Does their church kick them when they’re down? (There is plenty of evidence that it does, as a matter of official teaching and practice.) Contrast this with the guaranteed salvation of the Bible.
More scholarly quotes about the NWT
Many scholars refer to the New World Translation as a commentary on the Bible instead of a translation in light of the way the text has been altered to fit the various Society doctrines. These changes are particularly evident when the subjects of hell, the Trinity, or the immortality of the soul are discussed. The following is a representative list of passages altered in the Society’s Bible:
Heb. 1:8, Luke 23:43, 1 John 5:20, 1 Cor. 11:30, Phil. 2:5, 1 Cor. 14:14, John 1:1-2, Cor. 5:1, Col. 1:15-18, Gal. 5:15, Titus 2:13, Gal. 6:18, Acts 2:17, Heb. 10:39, 1 Pet. 3:18, 19, Heb. 12:9, Jude 1:19, Heb. 12:28, 1 John 4:1-6, Rev. 5:10, Rev. 8:9, Acts 20:7, Mark 1:4, Col. 2:12
Observations, Evaluations, And Criticisms of the NWT
These are by noted Greek and New Testament scholars. The comments are particularly directed toward the NWT translation of John 1:1, but are indicative of the tone of their observations about the NWT translation in general.
DR. J.R. MANTEY (who is quoted on pages 1158-1159, of the Society’s Kingdom Interlinear Translation): ”A shocking mistranslation“. ”Obsolete and incorrect“. ”It is neither scholarly nor reasonable to translate John 1:1 “The Word was a god.”
DR. BRUCE M. METZGER of Princeton University (Professor New Testament Language and Literature): “A frightful mistranslation...”, “erroneous...”, “pernicious...” “reprehensible...”. “If the YHWH’s Witnesses take this translation seriously, they are polytheists.”
DR. SAMUEL J. MIKOLASKI of Zurich, Switzerland: “This anarthrous (used without the article) construction does not mean what the indefinite article ’a’ means in English. It is monstrous to translate the phrase ’the Word was a god.’”
DR. PAUL L. KAUFFMAN of Portland, Oregon: “The YHWH’s Witnesses [translators] evidence an abysmal ignorance of the basic tenets of Greek grammar in their mistranslation of John 1:1.”
DR. CHARLES L. FEINBERG of La Mirada, California: “I can assure you that the rendering which the YHWH’s Witnesses give John 1:1 is not held by any reputable Greek scholar.”
DR. JAMES L. BOYER of Winona Lake, Indiana: “I have never heard of, or read of any Greek scholar who would agree to the interpretation of this [John 1:1] verse insisted upon by the YHWH’s Witnesses... I have never encountered one of them [Society member] who had any knowledge of the Greek language.”
DR. WALTER MARTIN (who does not teach Greek but has studied the language): “The translation ’a god’ instead of ’God’ is erroneous and unsupported by any good Greek scholarship, ancient or contemporary, and is a translation rejected by all recognized scholars of the Greek language, many of whom are not even Christians, and cannot fairly be said to be biased in favor of the orthodox contention.”
DR. WILLIAN BARCLAY of the University of Glasgow, Scotland: “The deliberate distortion of truth by this sect is seen in their New Testament translations. John 1:1 is translated: ’the Word was a god.’ a translation which is grammatically impossible. It is abundantly clear that a sect which can translate the New Testament like that is intellectually dishonest.”
DR. F.F. BRUCE of the University of Manchester, England: “Much is made by Arian amateur grammarians of the omission of the definite article with ’God’ in the phrase ’and the Word was God.’ Such an omission is common with nouns in a predicative construction... ’a god’ would be totally indefensible.”
(The late Dr. Barclay and Dr. Bruce are generally regarded as Great Britain’s leading Greek scholars. Each have New Testament translations in print.)
DR. ERNEST C. COLWELL of the University of Chicago: “A definite predicate nominative has the article when it follows the verb; it does not have the article when it precedes the verb... this statement cannot be regarded as strange in the prologue of the gospel which reaches its climax in the confession of Thomas: ’My Lord and my God.’ (John 20:28)”
DR. PHILIP B. HARNER of Heidelberg College: “The verb preceding an anarthrous predicate, would probably mean that the LOGOS was ’a god’ or a divine being of some kind, belonging to the general category of THEOS but a distinct being from HO THEOS. In the form the John actually uses, the word THEOS is placed at the beginning for emphasis [thus ruling out the ’a god’ translation].”
DR. J. JOHNSON of California State University, Long Beach: “No justification whatsoever for translationg THEOS EN HO LOGOS as ’the Word was a god.’ There is no syntactical parallel to Acts 23:6 where there is a statement in indirect discourse; John 1:1 is direct... I am neither a Christian nor a Trinitarian.”
DR. EUGENE A. NIDA, head of Translation Department, American Bible Society: “With regard to John 1:1, there is of course a complication simply because the New World Translation was apparently done by persons who did not take seriously the syntax of the Greek.” (Responsible for the Good News Bible -- the committee worked under him.)
DR. B.F. WESTCOTT (whose Greek New Testament text -- not the English part -- is used in the Kingdom Interlinear Translation): “The predicate (God) stands emphatically first, as in John 4:24. It is necessarily without the article... No idea of inferiority of nature is suggested by [this] form of expression, which simply affirms the true deity of the Word... in the third clause ’the Word’ is declared to be ’God’, and so included in the unity of the Godhead.”
DR. J.J. GRIESBACH (whose Greek New Testament text -- not the English part -- is used in the Society’s publication The Emphatic Diaglott): “So numerous and clear are the arguments and testimonies of Scriptures in favor of the true Deity of Christ, that I can hardly imagine how, upon the admission of the Divine authority of Scripture, and with regard to fair rules of interpretation, this doctrine can by any man be called in doubt. Especially the passage, John 1:1-3, is so clear and so superior to all exception, that by no daring efforts of either commentators or critics can it be snatched out of the hands of the defenders of the truth.”
Grieshaber, Erich, and Jean Grieshaber. “Mistranslations,” Redi-Answers on YHWH’s Witness Doctrine. Blue Letter Bible. 1 Jul 2002. 22 Jun 2004. http://blueletterbible.org/study/cults/rajwd/rajwd24.html
New Testament, 1950. Frederick W. Franz, ed., New World Translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures Rendered from the Original Language by the New World Translation Committee. Brooklyn: Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, 1950.
Bible, 1961. Frederick W. Franz, ed., The New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures, rendered from the Original Languages by the New World Bible Translation Committee. Revised A.D. 1961. Brooklyn: Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, 1961. The Old Testament was originally published in parts from 1953 to 1960. The whole was revised for the one-volume edition in 1961, and subsequently revised in 1970 and 1984. The publisher of this version has never made public the names of the translators. But former members of the Governing Body of the YHWH’s Witnesses organization have identified the members of the committee as Nathan H. Knorr (President of the organization), Frederick W. Franz (Vice-President), George D. Cangas, and Albert D. Schroeder. According to Raymond V. Franz, the “principal translator of the Society’s New World Translation” was Frederick W. Franz.(1) According to M. James Penton, “to all intents and purposes the New World Translation is the work of one man, Frederick Franz.”(2) Franz afterwards became the President of the organization, from 1977 to 1992, and was responsible for the revisions.
The Forward to the first edition of the New Testament (1950) explained the need for the version, and also indicated the reason for its name: “It befits the significant time of transition from the old world to the righteous new world that translations of the Scriptures today should as far as possible eliminate the misleading influence of religious traditions which have their roots in paganism.” (p.7, emphasis added.)
The New Testament adheres to the text of Westcott & Hort. It is a fairly literal translation, for the most part, but it does have some peculiar non-literal renderings. These are the result of the committee’s efforts to conform the version to the doctrines of the YHWH’s Witnesses. “YHWH” is given as a translation for kurios (Lord) in the New Testament whenever the Father is meant, but not when it refers to Christ, the Son. “Torture stake” is put instead of “cross” because the YHWH’s Witnesses believe that the cross is an idolatrous symbol introduced by the Roman Catholic Church. And because this sect teaches that Jesus Christ was merely an angel, the version reflects a Unitarian bias in several places.
Examples of Unitarian bias:
Gen. 1:1-2 “In [the] beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth proved to be formless and waste and there was darkness upon the surface of [the] watery deep; and God’s active force was moving to and fro over the surface of the waters.” The ruach elohim (“Spirit of God”) of the Hebrew is interpreted “God’s active force” in order to avoid the Trinitarian understanding of the “Spirit.”
Zech. 12:10 “...they will look upon the one whom they have pierced...” Here the Hebrew “look upon me whom they have pierced,” in which God is the speaker, has been altered in order to avoid the implication that the one who is to be pierced (on the cross) is God.
John 1:1 “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was a god.” Instead of the literal “the Word was God,” we have “a god,” which the sect interprets as “an angelic being.”
Col. 1:15-17 “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.” Because the sect teaches that Christ was a created being rather than eternal God, the word “other” is inserted several times. The first edition of the translation did this without brackets.
Heb. 1:8 “God is your throne forever” (a nonsensical statement) is put intead of “your throne, O God, is forever” because this statement refers to Christ.
The New World Translation is widely seen as an example of sectarian bias in Bible translation.
Robert H. Countess, The YHWH’s Witnesses’ New Testament: a Critical Analysis of the New World Translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures (2nd ed. Phillipsburg, New Jersey: Presbyterian and Reformed Pub. Co., 1987).
Bruce M. Metzger, “The New World Translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures.” The Bible Translator 15/3 (July 1964), pp. 150-153.
Bruce M. Metzger, “The YHWH’s Witnesses and Jesus Christ: A Biblical and Theological Appraisal.” Theology Today 10 (1953): 65-85.
1. Raymond V. Franz, Crisis of Conscience (Atlanta: Commentary Press, 1982), p. 50.
2. M. James Penton, Apocalypse Delayed: The Story of YHWH’s Witnesses (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1985), p. 174.