|New World Translation|
|Full name:||New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures|
|Complete Bible published:||1961|
|Textual basis:||NT: Westcott & Hort.
OT: Biblia Hebraica.
|Translation type:||Formal Equivalence with occasional ventures into Dynamic equivalence|
|Copyright status:||Copyright 1961, 1981, 1984 Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania|
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 used and distributed by Jehovah's Witnesses. Though it is not the first Bible to be published by the group, it is their first original translation of ancient Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic biblical texts. As of 2010, the Watch Tower Society has published more than 165 million copies of the New World Translation in 83 languages.
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", composed of anointed Jehovah's Witnesses, was formed. The Watch Tower Society is said to have "become aware" of the committee's existence a year later. The committee agreed to turn over its translation to the Society for publication and 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 where he again announced to the directors the existence of the committee and that it was now able to print its new modern English translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures. The directors were read several chapters from the translation and then voted to accept it as a gift.
The New World Translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures was released at a convention of Jehovah's Witnesses at Yankee Stadium, New York, 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 (cross) references which had appeared in the six separate volumes were updated and included in the complete volume in the 1984 revision. The layout resembles the 1901 edition of the American Standard Version.
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.
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New World Translation
List of publications
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|Watch Tower presidents|
|W.H. Conley · C.T. Russell
J.F. Rutherford · N.H. Knorr
F.W. Franz · M.G. Henschel
|William Miller · Henry Grew
George Storrs · N.H. Barbour
|Notable former members|
|Raymond Franz · Olin Moyle|
|Criticism · Persecution
Supreme Court cases
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 name Jehovah is a translation of the Tetragrammaton (Hebrew: יהוה, transliterated as YHWH). According to Jewish tradition, the name of God was not spoken, and the original pronunciation is unknown. The New World Translation uses the name Jehovah 6,973 times in the Old Testament. Additionally, it inserts the name 237 times in the New Testament where the original texts refer to God. The translators believe that because the name was used liberally in the Greek and Hebrew manuscripts of the Old Testament available at that time, that the New Testament writers also used the name when quoting from them. They conclude that the lack of references to Jehovah in those quotations were the result of paraphrasing on the part of later copyists, as with the removal of God's name from the Old Testament.
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, 1984 and 2006 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.
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.
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 in 17 languages 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 scripts. In 2006, production of the NWT in American Sign Language began, starting with the Gospel of Matthew.
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 on the Scriptures. Since 1994, the NWT has been included in the digital research tool, Watchtower Library on CD-ROM, available only to baptized Jehovah's Witnesses. The full text of the NWT is also available on the Watch Tower Society's official website.
As of 2010, the NWT has been published in 91 languages. Translation into other languages is based on the English text, supplemented by comparison with the Hebrew and Greek.
The complete New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures is available in Afrikaans, Albanian, Arabic, Armenian, 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, Kirundi, Korean, Lingala, Macedonian, Malagasy, Maltese, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese (also Braille), Romanian, Russian, Serbian (Cyrillic and Latin scripts), Sesotho, Shona, Sinhala, Slovak, Spanish (also Braille), Swahili, Swedish, Tagalog, Tsonga, Tswana, Turkish, Twi, Xhosa, Yoruba, and Zulu.
The New World Translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures is available in American Sign Language, Amharic, Azerbaijani, Brazilian Sign Language, Cambodian, Chichewa, Colombian Sign Language, Efik, Estonian, Ewe, Fijian, Gilbertese, Hiligaynon, Hindi, Italian Braille, Italian Sign Language, Kannada, Kinyarwanda, Kirghiz, Luganda, Malayalam, Mexican Sign Language, Myanmar, Ossetian, Pangasinan, Russian Sign Language, Samoan, Sango, Sepedi, Slovenian, Sranantongo, Tamil, Thai, Tumbuka, and Ukrainian.
|The Bible in English|
|Old English (pre-1066)|
|Middle English (1066-1500)|
|Early Modern English (1500-1800)|
|Modern Christian (1800-)|
|Modern Jewish (1853-)|
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.
A 2003 study by Jason BeDuhn, associate professor of religious studies at Northern Arizona University in the United States, 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, 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 reported that the New World Translation was "not bias free", but emerged "as the most accurate of the translations compared", and thus a "remarkably good translation", adding that "most of the differences are due to the greater accuracy of the NW as a literal, conservative translation". BeDuhn said the introduction of the name "Jehovah" into the New Testament 237 times was "not accurate translation by the most basic principle of accuracy", and that it "violate[s] accuracy in favor of denominationally preferred expressions for God", adding that for the NWT to gain wider acceptance and prove its worth its translators might have to abandon the use of "Jehovah" in the New Testament.
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.
Samuel Haas, in his 1955 review of the 1953 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 Professor of History and Director of the Institute for Advanced Studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, 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 1953 first volume of the NWT (Genesis to Ruth), Dr. Harold H. Rowley (1890–1969) was critical of what he called "wooden literalism" and "harsh construction." He characterized 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 concluded, "From beginning to end this [first] volume is a shining example of how the Bible should not be translated." Rowley's published review is dated January 1953, six months before the volume was actually released; Rowley did not update his review following the July 1953 release or the 1961 revision, and he died before the release of later revisions in 1970, 1971, and 1984.
Theologian and televangelist John Ankerberg accused the translators of rendering the NWT to conform "to their own preconceived and unbiblical theology." Dr. John Weldon and Ankerberg cite several examples in which they consider the NWT to support a view of theology overriding appropriate translation, including 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." ( Strong's Concordance defines the involved Greek term ἅπαξ ("apax" or "hapax") as either "once" or "once for all") Ankerberg and Weldon cite Dr. Julius R. Mantey, co-author of A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament and A Hellenistic Greek Reader, who stated, "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." Mantey also called the NWT "a shocking mistranslation."
Dr. William Barclay, Professor of Divinity and Biblical Criticism, 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." Dr. Robert Countess stated in his PhD dissertation, "[The New World Translation] must be viewed as a radically biased piece of work. At some points it is actually 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."
Robert McCoy stated "One could question why the translators have not stayed closer to the original meaning, as do most translators ... In not a few instances the New World Translation contains passages which must be considered as `theological translations.' This fact is particularly evident in those passages which express or imply the deity of Jesus Christ." 
Former American Bible Society board member Dr. Bruce M. Metzger concluded that "on the whole, one gains a tolerably good impression of the scholarly equipment of the translators", but identified instances where the translation has been written to support doctrine, with "several quite erroneous renderings of the Greek." He described the NWT's comma placement at Luke 23:43 as a device "supporting the doctrine of 'soul sleep' held by Jehovah's Witnesses," and said the insertion of the word "other" four times in Colossians chapter 1, "making Paul say that Jesus Christ is one among 'other' created things," was designed to provide support for Witness doctrine of nontrinitarianism and "totally without warrant from the Greek". Metzger noted a number of "indefensible" characteristics of the translation, including its use of "Jehovah" in the New Testament. He said the insertion of the name "Jehovah" in Jude 11-15 was "singularly inappropriate", stating that the name was unknown to Enoch who is quoted as using it, and that the tetragrammaton is not used in "the Greek text of the Book of Enoch, with which the quotation by Jude agrees almost verbatim."
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."
Unitarian theologian 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."
Religion writer and editor Alexander Thomson said of the NWT: "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, an instructor of Greek at the University of Nebraska, 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."
The New World Translation has been criticized for its rendering of John 1:1. Most English translations render this verse: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." By contrast, NWT renders the verse: "In the beginning the Word was, and the Word was with God, and the Word was a god." Controversy regarding the translation of John 1:1 is not unique to NWT, but involves similar rendering of John 1:1 in such translations as Wilson's Emphatic Diaglott and Goodspeed's The Bible—An American Translation.