Christian Living
Essentials of Faith
Evidences for Faith
Applying Your Faith

The Watchtower's New World Translation of the Bible

There are many bible translations but none that contradict each other except for the New World Translation.  This translation translates words and ideas differently causing conflict with the other translations.  Both can not be true so is the New World Translation a true biblical translation?  This article will look a a few areas of the translation where words are changed or added and explore the true meaning found in the Alexandrian, Byzantine, and Old Testament ancient texts.

Cross or Stake?

The New World Translation renders the Greek term word staurós ("cross") as "torture stake" because Jehovah’s Witnesses do not believe that Jesus was crucified on a cross.  The English word for "cross" comes from the latin word "crux".  Whether "stake" or "cross" is used; this still does not negate the detailed history of the use of the thing.  Roman historian Tacitus describes such events.  Criminals, with their crossbeams are then mounted on the fixed pole for the purpose of slow painful deaths.  Jewish historian Josephus (born only a few years after Jesus was killed) records people caught by Romans, being nailed to them.  Roman politician Cicero, who wrote around 30BC, recorded the gruesome nature of this kind of execution.   Seneca the Younger, a Roman philosopher who lived during Jesus' time, described the method as means to humiliate.  Jehovah's Witnesses argue that Jesus was crucified on a crux simplex, and that the crux immissa was an invention of Emperor Constantine round the 4th century in defense of Christianity; but a graffito found in a taberna in Puteoli, dating to the time of Trajan or Hadrian (late 1st century to early 2nd century CE) shows a T shaped crucifixion.  The New Testament writings about the crucifixion of Jesus do not specifically describe the shape of the cross, but the early writings that do speak of its shape, from about the year 100 CE on, describe it as shaped like the letter T (the Greek letter tau) or as composed of an upright and a transverse beam, sometimes with a small projection in the upright.  When considering actual Roman history we can conclude that simply calling it a 'stake' is an insufficient word choice.  

An example of poor choice words in translations that can negatively impact the understanding is this:  The concept of our desperate need for Jesus.  If I was to say in greek, "I moved to Jesus".  That is a good thing.  But if I was to have actually said in greek "I sprinted to Jesus"; notice the big difference.  Yes, sprinting is moving, but sprinting illuminates the desperation.  The New World translation would have used the word 'move' instead of 'sprint' because of their own theological agendas and would argue that 'moving' is what the greek word means- this is called deceptive truth.  Even though sprinting is moving and can mean moving, the author meant a more specific word to illuminate the truth.

Thus, with true historic evidences we can conclude that the 'cross' is best.  Therefore, we can conclude that Jesus was in fact crucified on a "cross".  With this we can already see poor word choices in the New World Translation.  The reasoning for that poor word choice is due to an attempt to morph unbiblical teachings forced by changing the wording in scripture.  Not only does the word choice not fully express the message but it conflicts with actual historical facts.

The Place of The Dead- Hell?

The New World Translation does not translate the words sheol, hades, and gehenna as "hell” because Jehovah’s Witnesses do not believe in hell.  Aside from the theological misunderstandings of God's Justice and Love with Hell; and looking at the actual meanings expressed in the ancient biblical texts in the cultures it was written in we can see the same poor word choice issue.  In Jewish tradition, gehenna, is the place of fire and torment for the wicked (Kiddushin 4.14, Avot 1.5; 5.19, 20, Tosefta t. Bereshith 6.15, and Babylonian Talmud b.Rosh Hashanah 16b:7a; b. Bereshith 28b).  This place is know for this because historically and traditionally this is where children were burned to a pagan god. The same place Jesus states in Matthew 5:22, 29-30, 10:28, 18:9, 23:15, 33; Mark 9:43, 45, 47; Luke 12:5; James 3:6).  Sheol and Hades are cultural words that are synonyms for the same place describing a general sense of the world of the dead.  The context points to the specificity of the truth about this place.  In general, scripture tells us of a literal place where wicked and fallen angels will go for eternal torment.  But if God is Just and Loving, how then can he send anyone there?  Simple.  People choose to go there and because God is ultimately loving, he gives them what they ultimately desire; separation from himself.  It is God's justice that requires payment for sin; thus this place apart from him is their rightful and just payment for their sins.  God remains perfectly Just and Loving by giving people what they ultimately desire with the perfect judged consequences of it.  This place is called Hell in English and the descriptive words are synonyms of that place.  The importance of understanding the culture and synonyms is key.  Misunderstanding this leads to unbiblical ideas which influences incorrect translations.  That is exactly what happened with the New World Translation.  The teachers of the Jehovah's Witness religion failed to properly understand Hell.  They invented an idea about this subject and injected that false idea into how they translate the bible.

Already Came or Still Coming?

 The NWT gives the translation "presence" instead of “coming” for the Greek word parousia because Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that Christ has already returned in the early 1900s.  This translation is soley based on the concept that Jesus already came.  When the authors wrote the word, in context, was in future tense.  Jesus' physical presence was coming.  The translation of this word in the NWT is completely dependent on the idea that Jesus already came.  Did he?  Acts 1:9-11 specifically tells us that he physically ascended into heaven AND will return the same way.  Therefore we know that he will physically descend from heaven in the future.  Jesus discussed this with the Apostles in Matthew 24:3-32.  There are some huge points that need to be made here.  First, Jesus warns the Apostles (and us) about false Christs and false prophets.  "And Jesus answered and said to them, “See to it that no one misleads you... For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will mislead many... Many false prophets will arise and will mislead many... Then if anyone says to you, ‘Behold, here is the Christ,’ or ‘There He is,’ do not believe him... For false Christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect."  Jehovah's Witnesses aren't the only ones who claim that Jesus already came. 

Ann Lee (1736–1784), the founder and leader of the Shakers believed she was the female incarnation of Christ on Earth. William W. Davies (1833–1906), leader of a Latter Day Saint group. He taught his followers that he was the archangel Michael, and also declared that the infant was the reincarnated Jesus Christ. Sun Myung Moon (1920–2012), believed by members of the Unification Church to be the Messiah and the Second Coming of Christ.  Yahweh ben Yahweh (1935–2007), born as Hulon Mitchell, Jr., a black nationalist and separatist who created the Nation of Yahweh in 1979 in Liberty City, Florida. His self-proclaimed name means "God, Son of God". He could have only been deeming himself to be "son of God", not God, but many of his followers clearly deem him to be God Incarnate.  Inri Cristo (1948–), a Brazilian who claims to be the second Jesus reincarnated in 1969.  Apollo Quiboloy (1950–) is the founder and leader of a Philippines-based Restorationist church, the Kingdom of Jesus Christ, The Name Above Every Name, Inc. He has made claims that he is the "Appointed Son of God". Alan John Miller (1962–), more commonly known as A.J. Miller, a former Jehovah's Witness elder and current leader of the Australia-based Divine Truth movement.  Miller claims to be Jesus Christ reincarnated.  This just to name a few throughout history.  The Jehovah Witness claim is nothing new.  How do we know they aren't?

We continue reading in Matthew 24:  "So if they say to you, ‘Behold, He is in the wilderness,’ do not go out, or, ‘Behold, He is in the inner rooms,’ do not believe them... For just as the lightning comes from the east and flashes even to the west, so will the coming of the Son of Man be... And then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the SON OF MAN COMING ON THE CLOUDS OF THE SKY with power and great glory... For the coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah... and they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away; so will the coming of the Son of Man be."  And just like that; the entire earth will know.  The entire earth will see him.  "For then there will be a great tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever will." (Matthew 24:21)  The power and great glory of his coming will be so great and so grand; more grand than the beginning of the World!  Well, the whole world did not see anything.  The power and glory was not that great if the Jehovah's Witnesses are right... 

Their claim of him already coming conflicts with what Jesus revealed; therefore he has not come yet.  With that said, the NWT rendering of the word "presence" instead of "coming" is very incorrect because the more accurate word is in fact 'coming'.  There was nothing like the flood, nothing more powerful than creation, no great and grand power or glory, and "ALL" the tribes of the earth did not see anything.

All Other Things?

 In Colossians 1:16, the NWT inserts the word “other” despite its being completely absent from the original Greek text. It does this to give the view that “all other things” were created by Christ, instead of what the text says, “all things were created by Christ.” This is to go along with their belief that Christ is a created being, which they believe because they deny the Trinity.  The NWT also adds the word other four times to Colossians 1:15-17. This implies that Jesus was first created AND THEN He created other things. There is no word in the Greek text for other. The NWT translators added it in order to put their false doctrine into the text.  The Alexandrian Text Types read "ὅτι ἐν αὐτῷ ἐκτίσθη τὰ πάντα"  which literally states "For by Him all things were created".  They continue to read "καὶ αὐτός ἐστιν πρὸ πάντων" which literally states "He is before all things".  The dishonest insertion of the word "other" attempts to impute something that is NOT stated in scripture.

The Word was a god?

This is a typical verse JW use in defense of their beliefs; John 1:1. But this defense is solely based on an idea injected into the bible and not originally from the bible.  The original Greek text reads, “and God was The Word.” The NWT renders it as “the word was a god.” This is not just a matter of correct translation, but of reading one's preconceived theology into the text, rather than allowing the text to speak for itself.   The most revealing evidence of the Watchtower's bias is their inconsistent translation technique. Throughout the Gospel of John, the Greek word theon occurs without a definite article. The New World Translation renders none of these as “a god.” Just three verses after John 1:1, the New World Translation translates another case of theos without the indefinite article as "God." Even more inconsistent, in John 1:18, the NWT translates the same term as both "God" and "god" in the very same sentence.  

When considering the historical and cultural context of "God" in Israel we see that they were monotheistic. The earliest church teachers also taught monotheism.  Given the time of the writing of scripture, singular "God" is the absolute most correct translation.  The NWT cherry picks how to translate the word based on its own ideas outside of the bible to fit its invented teachings.

It is also important to note that if the author wanted to express a plurality of gods, the greek language could.  In other greek writings, when talking about the pantheon of gods, they do.  Therefore, the author could have chosen to express that here; but he didn't.   The odd inconsistent justification is 'Jesus is just a lesser god'  But this then comes into conflict with strict monotheistic verses in the bible. This is also self defeating because he is still a god.  But if there is only one Almighty God, than there can not be other gods, even if to a lesser extent; because by definition of God, there could not be more than one.  Another attempt to justify the existence of 'lesser gods' they will misunderstand Exodus 4:16 and Exodus 7:1.  But this is easy to spot the fallacy in the fact that Moses was only stated to be made "AS God" and not "A God".  Moses was "as God" in the sense that he was given the authority and power to display powerful miracles that decimated much of Egypt.  This does not make him "a god" because his authority and power came from THE monotheistic GOD in the first place. 


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.  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. 

When it comes to this translation we find it almost universally rejected by noted scholars in the field of Biblical translations according to Dr. Ron Rhodes.  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.”  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). 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 basic Hebrew test.  Raymond Victor Franz, Fredrick's nephew, was a member of the divine Governing Body of Jehovah's Witnesses.  He later left the JW after studying the Bible and comparing it to JW teachings. He later wrote Crisis of Conscience (1983) and In Search of Christian Freedom (1991) that detailed his experiences with the Jehovah's Witnesses and their inner workings and teachings.  Just these two examples prove the fallibility of the Governing Body and exposed it as less than divinely inspired by Almighty God.  Which, also, exposes the fallacies of the NWT.

Internal Theological Contradictions

There exist theological inconsistencies between the NWT and Watchtower theology.  Isaiah 40-48. By simply reading these eight chapters, or at least select passages from within them, and comparing them to other biblical teachings, major cracks in the foundation of the Watchtower’s primary biblical translation emerge.  Matt. 3:3 uses Isaiah for Jesus.  John 10:14 Jesus as the shepherd as in Isa 40:11.  When reading from the NWT; Matthew 3:3 even validates that Isaiah was speaking about Jesus and John The Baptist and records Jesus claiming to the shepherd as stated in Isaiah 40:11. And announced in just two verses prior is the statement from Isaiah "Here is your God." and "like a shepherd HE will care for HIS flock".  Remember, this verses is talking about Almighty God.  Then in John 10:14, Jesus literally states "I know my sheep and my sheep know me".  These issues come from comparing the NWT with itself.  These are just a few examples, but it is recommended to study Isaiah 40-48 and compare it to what is stated in the synoptic gospels.


If ANY of these issues are true, than it proves the NWT has errors in its translation method.  Aside from translation errors, it is important to see that the translation method itself directly influenced by ideas invented outside of The Bible.  Then, the ideas, injected into the translation.  The source for the Biblical ideas comes from ignorant assumptions and misunderstandings, cherry picked from what the Bible actually declares.  To truly understand scripture one must keep in mind the cultural and historical implications associated with it; and interpret scripture with the totality of scripture and not from one or two selected verses and then jump to conclusions without the whole of scripture being reconciled.

Miss translations such as stake, Misunderstandings such as sheol, hades, and gehenna.  Extra-biblical injected theology such as presence instead of coming.  Added words such as "a" and "other".  Extra-biblical created words such as Jehovah.  Self existent contradictions such as in Isaiah compared to Matthew and John.  These examples prove the New World Translation is not a translation of God's Word but rather a translation morphed into The Watchtower's teachings.  The source for the ideas that change the translation methods is from those who attempt to translate without proper education and preconceived extra-biblical beliefs.  The JW argument comes down to this:  The New World Translation is the most correct translation because the Watchtower re-translated the bible based off of Watchtower beliefs found in the New World Translation.  That is the same as saying: A circle is a square because a square is a circle.  This logical fallacy is called Circular Reasoning; and thus, is illogical.

Defending the New World Translation is the argument that the NWT is true because it is from the Watchtower, because the Watchtower is in the NWT of which it translated.  As compared to the argument for the NASB for example;  which is based from the Alexandrian Text types and Masoritic Texts simply translated into English using the common understanding of the language, culture, and history of the authors.

Also read The Jehovah's Witnesses

If you have any questions or comments about this article please contact us or join our discussion forms

No comments:

Post a Comment

What do you think?

Top Articles in the Last Month

Flag Counter