Well, the annual meeting is behind us. Many of the brothers and sisters are very excited with the new Bible. It is a beautiful piece of printing, no doubt. We have not had much time to review it, but what we have seen so far seems positive for the most part. It is a practical Bible for the door-to-door witnessing work with its 20 themes in the introduction. Of course, you may want us to steer clear of topic #7. “What does the Bible foretell about our day?”

I’ve heard from several sources—sources largely supportive of Jehovah’s Witnesses—that the meeting came across more like a corporate product launch than a spiritual gathering. Two brothers noted independently that Jesus was only mentioned twice in the course of the entire meeting and even those references were merely incidental.

The purpose of this post is to set up a discussion thread so that we can share viewpoints from the forum community with reference to the NWT Edition 2013. I have received several emails already from different contributors, and would like to share them with the readership.

Before doing that, let me point out something curious in Appendix B1 “The Message of the Bible”.  The subheading reads:

Jehovah God has the right to rule. His method of ruling is best.
His purpose for the earth and for mankind will be fulfilled.

It then goes on listing key dates when this message was revealed. Arguably, in our theology, the most important date in the development of the theme of God’s right to rule would have to be 1914 as the date in which the messianic kingdom was set up in heaven and God’s rulership through his newly enthroned son Jesus Christ put an end to the unchallenged rule of the appointed times of the Gentiles. This occurred in October of 1914 according to what we have been taught for close to a century.  Yet in this appendix timeline, no mention at all is made of this core belief of Jehovah’s Witnesses.  Under the heading, “About 1914 CE”, we are merely told that Jesus cast Satan out of heaven. Please note that this occurs “about” the year of 1914; i.e., on or about 1914 Satan was cast down.  (Apparently, nothing else worthy of note happened at that time.)  The omission of one of the core tenets of our belief is strange, bizarre even—and most definitely foreboding.  One cannot help but wonder if we are being set up for a big, devastating change.

From a friend south of the border (way south of the border) we have this:

Here are some quick observations:

Acts 15:12  “At that the entire group became silent, and they began to listen to Barnabas and Paul relate the many signs and wonders that God had done through them among the nations.”

Most bibles seem to say something like ‘the entire assembly’ or ‘everyone’.  But I find it interesting that they would leave a woodenly literal rendering of Php. 2:6 but see the need to change this.  They are obviously trying to strengthen their position.

Acts 15:24  “…some went out from among us and caused you trouble with what they have said, trying to subvert you, although we did not give them any instructions”

A little damage control, 2000 years later…

At least “asinine zebra” (Job 11.12) is now “wild donkey”, and “Horses seized with sexual heat, having [strong] testicles” is now “They are like eager, lustful horses”.

I just read random portions of Isaiah and then compared them with the new NWT.  I have to say, it is much improved with respect to readability.

Apollos had this to say about the insertion of Jehovah into the Christian Scriptures.

It was interesting at the meeting that they felt the need to create a straw man over the issue of the divine name in the NT.

Brother Sanderson said that critics of our insertion of the divine name in the Greek Scriptures argue that Jesus’ disciples would have followed the Jewish superstitions of the time. He made it sound as though this was the core argument of scholars, which of course is simply not the case. The scholars disagree with the insertion primarily on the basis that there is no manuscript evidence that it should be inserted.

Then brother Jackson said that we were justified in inserting it on the basis that quotes from the Hebrew Scriptures according to the LXX would have included it. He failed to mention that this accounts for less than half the insertions, and gave no further argument for all the other places in which it has been done.

The last subheading under appendix A5 and the following two pages are more confusing and unsubstantiated than anything that was previously argued. In this version they haven’t gone for the J References which were often used as smoke and mirrors (esp. at elders and pioneer schools).  But where is the weight behind saying that the divine name is used in all these other languages in the Greek Scriptures (many of them obscure languages) if you are not going to give the references as to what the translations are? It’s completely meaningless as far as I can see, and even weaker than the misrepresentation of the J references. For all this section says it could be one crazy translation that has been officially published and had a run of a few copies in each of these languages. They only vaguely identify three of these versions – the Rotuman Bible (1999),  the Batak (1989) and a Hawaiian version (unnamed) of 1816.  For all we know the rest could be people who have taken it upon themselves to translate the NWT into these other languages. It just doesn’t say. If there were any real weight to these versions, I think they would not hesitate to make them explicit.

I would have to agree with the above.  Another friend adds (also quoting from the appendix):

“Without a doubt, there is a clear basis for restoring the divine name, Jehovah, in the Christian Greek Scriptures. That is exactly what the translators of the New World Translation have done.

They have a deep respect for the divine name and a healthy fear of removing anything that appeared in the original text.—Revelation 22:18, 19.”

Considering that the basis for ‘restoring’ the DN in any place other than quotes from the OT is not clear, they apparently lack a ‘healthy fear of adding anything that didn’t appear in the original text’.

I would have to concur.

In the old NWT reference Bible Appendix 1D, they refer to a theory put forward by George Howard of the University of Georgia about the reason why he feels that the divine name should appear in the NT.  Then they add: “We concur with the above, with this exception: We do not consider this view a “theory,” rather, a presentation of the facts of history as to the transmission of Bible manuscripts.”

This sounds remarkably like the logic that evolutionists use when they refuse to refer to evolution as “a theory”, but as historical fact.

Here are the facts—not supposition nor conjecture, but facts. There are over 5,300 manuscripts or fragments of manuscripts of the Christian Scriptures.  In none of them—not a single one—does the divine name in the form of the tetragrammaton appear.  Our old NWT justified the 237 insertions we have made of the divine name into holy Scripture using what it called J references.  A minority of these, 78 to be precise, are places where the Christian writer references the Hebrew Scriptures. However, they usually do so with a phraseological rendering, rather than a word-for-word quote, so they could have easily put “God” where the original used “Jehovah”.  Be that as it may, the great majority of the J references are not references to the Hebrew Scriptures.  So why then did they insert the divine name in these places?  Because someone, usually a translator producing a version for the Jews, used the divine name.  These versions are only a couple of hundred years old and in some cases, only a few decades old.  Moreover, in every case, they are translations, not original manuscript copies.  Again, no original manuscript contains the divine name.

This raises a question never addressed in our Bible appendices: If Jehovah was capable (and of course he would be, he’s almighty God) of preserving the almost 7,000 references to his divine name in the even older Hebrew manuscripts, why didn’t he do so in at least some of the thousands of manuscripts of the Greek Scriptures.  Could it be it wasn’t there in the first place?  But why wouldn’t it be there?  There are some interesting possible answers to that question, but let’s not get off topic.  We’ll leave that to another time; another post.  The fact is, if the Author chose not to preserve His name, then either he didn’t want it preserved or it wasn’t there in the first place and given that “all Scripture is inspired of God”, he had his reasons.  Who are we to mess with that?  Are we acting like Uzzah?  The warning of Rev. 22:18, 19 is dire.

Missed Opportunities

I’m saddened that the translators haven’t taken this golden opportunity to improve certain passages.  For instance, Matthew 5:3 reads: “Happy are those conscious of their spiritual need…”  The Greek word refers to a person who is destitute; a beggar.  A beggar is one who is not only aware of his abject poverty, but is calling out for help.  A smoker is often conscious of the need to quit, but is not willing to make the effort to do so. Many today are conscious that they lack spirituality, but again make no effort to correct the situation. Simply put, these people are not begging. It would’ve been advantageous if the translating committee had taken this opportunity to restore the emotional content implicit in Jesus words.

Philippians 2:6 is another example. Jason David BeDuhn[i], though praising the accuracy the NWT gives in its the rendering of this verse admits it is  “hyper-literal” and “too convoluted and awkward”.  He suggests, “gave no thought to a seizure of equality,” or “did not consider seizing equality,” or “did not consider grabbing at being equal.” If our goal is improved readability through simplification of the language used, why stick with our former rendering?

NWT 101

The original NWT was largely the product of one man’s efforts, Fred Franz.  Intended as a study Bible, it was supposed to be a literal translation.  It was often very stilted and awkwardly phrased.  Parts of it were virtually incomprehensible.  (When going through the Hebrew prophets in our weekly assigned reading for the TMS, my wife and I would have the NWT in one hand and a couple of other versions in the other, just to refer to when we had no idea what the NWT was saying.)

Now this new edition is presented as a Bible for the field service.  That’s great.  We need something simple to reach people these days.  However, it is not an additional Bible but a replacement.  They explained that in their effort to simplify, they’ve removed over 100,000 words.  However, words are the building blocks of language, and one wonders how much has been lost.

We’ll have to wait and see if this new Bible truly aids our comprehension and helps us to a deeper understanding of Scripture, or if it will merely support the milk-like diet which I’m sad to say has been our weekly fare for many years now.

The Square Brackets Are Gone

In the previous edition, we used square brackets to indicate words that had been added to “clarify the meaning”.  An example of this is 1 Cor. 15:6 which reads in part in the new edition, “…some have fallen asleep in death.” The previous edition read: “…some have fallen asleep [in death]”.  The Greek doesn’t include the “in death”.  The idea of death as merely a state of slumber was something new to the Jewish mind. Jesus introduced the concept repeatedly, most notably in the account of the resurrection of Lazarus. His disciples did not get the point at the time. (John 11:11, 12)  However, after witnessing the various miracles of the resurrection culminating in that of their Lord Jesus, they did get the point. So much so that it became part of the Christian vernacular to refer to death as sleep. I fear that by adding in these words to the holy text, we are not clarifying the meaning at all, but confusing it.

Clear and simple is not always better.  Sometimes we need to challenge, to initially confuse.  Jesus did that.  The disciples were confused by his words initially.  We want people to ask, why it says “fell asleep”. Understanding that death is no longer the enemy and that we should fear it no more than we fear a night’s sleep is a key truth. It would have been better if the first version had not even added the words, “[in death]”, but it is even worse in the new version to make it appear that what is being translated is an accurate rendering of the original Greek. This powerful expression of holy Scripture has been turned into a mere cliché.

We would like to think our Bible contains no bias, but that would be like thinking we humans contain no sin. Ephesians 4:8 used to be rendered “he gave gifts [in] men”.  Now it is simply rendered, “he gave gifts in men.”  At least before we admitted that we were adding the “in”.  Now we make it look like it was there in the original Greek.  The fact is every other translation one can find (There may be exceptions, but I haven’t found them yet.) renders this as “he gave gifts to men”, or some facsimile.  They do this because that’s what the original Greek says. Rendering it as we do supports the idea of an authoritative hierarchy.  We are to view the elders, circuit overseers, district overseers, branch committee members, all the way up to and including the Governing Body as gifts of men which God has given us. However, it is clear from the context as well as the syntax that Paul is referring to spiritual gifts which are given to men. The emphasis is therefore on the gift from God and not on the man.

This new Bible makes it harder for us to pick out these errors.

That is what we have discovered so far. It has only been a day or two that we’ve had this in our hands.  I you don’t have a copy, you can download it from the www.jw.org site. There are also excellent apps for Windows, iOS, and Android.

We look forward to receiving comments from the readership to further our understanding of the impact this new translation will have on our study and preaching work.

[i] Truth in Translation Accuracy and Bias in English Translations of the New Testament – Jason David BeDuhn, p. 61 , par. 1