Is The New World Translation Accurate?
The New World Translation of The Holy Scriptures (NWT) is the main bible used by Jehovah’s Witnesses worldwide. After only a casual reading of it, lovers of God’s Word will quickly realize its peculiarity. It has sent shivers down the backs of many well-known theologians and contemporary Greek scholars. Many proof texts Christians use to teach and defend the foundational truths of their faith are rendered quite differently in this translation. Often, the verses presented represent radical departures from orthodox Christian beliefs.
However, just because something is different doesn’t mean that it is wrong. According to the bible, we need to test all things (1 Thess. 5:21). How can we test the accuracy of the NWT? Well, since the New Testament was originally written in Greek, we can compare the New Testament of the NWT to a widely recognized, accepted and scholarly Greek text. In fact, the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society has already done that for us.
In 1969 and again in 1985, the Watchtower printed and published the Kingdom Interlinear Translation of the Greek Scriptures (KIT). This book compares the NWT’s New Testament to the scholarly 1881 Westcott and Hort Greek text of the New Testament. The KIT is arranged so that the Greek text is on the left side of the page with the English rendering below it and the NWT is on the right side. According to the 1985 KIT on p. 5, the arrangement is beneficial because, “....the accuracy of any modern translation can be determined”. So, lets compare some verses in the KIT to see if the NWT is in fact accurate.
Before we dig in, I want to refer to 2 statements found in the 1985 KIT. On p.9 it says, “We offer no paraphrase of the scriptures. Our endeavor throughout has been to give as literal a translation as possible ....”. And on p.10, “To each major word we have assigned one meaning and have held to that meaning as far as the context permitted”. So, with those statements in mind let’s check out the 1985 KIT.
NWT- “Jesus said to them: “Most truly I say to you, Before Abraham came into existence, I have been””.
Literal Greek Text- “Said to them Jesus Amen amen I am saying to you Before Abraham to become I Am.”
Why has the NWT violated their own standard and paraphrased the Greek words ego eimi (I AM) into I have been? After all, the NWT translates ego eimi accurately into I am in versus 18, 23, 24 and 28. To answer that question, one needs to read Exodus 3:13-14 in any approved bible translation. For example, in the King James Version (which Jehovah’s Witnesses used prior to 1950), Moses asks YHWH (LORD) what His name is. God’s answer is “I AM”. This presents a problem for the Watchtower, because Jesus is claiming to be the I AM, the Almighty God of the Old Testament. Notice the next verse in John 8:59, “Therefore, they picked up stones to hurl at him....”. The religious Jews of Jesus’ day knew very well who Jesus was claiming to be. They acted as if Jesus was a blasphemer (see Lev 24:16).
NWT- “This means everlasting life, their taking in knowledge of you, the only true God, and of the one whom you sent forth, Jesus Christ.”
Literal Greek Text- “This but is the everlasting life in order that they may be knowing you the only true God and whom you sent forth Jesus Christ.”
Notice the change? “They may be knowing you” has been translated into the NWT as, “taking in knowledge of you”. Witnesses will say that both wordings mean the same thing. However, this is not true. One may take in an abundance of knowledge about the president, for example, but never actually know him personally. The same is true of Christ. Many people know about Jesus but they don’t have a personal relationship with Him. Jesus actually spoke about this in Matthew 7:22-23. He said, “Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then I will profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity”. See also John 5:39-40.
Why would the Watchtower want to distort the meaning of this text? Because by saying that eternal life comes by “taking in knowledge”, the Society keeps the Jehovah’s Witness dependent on them for salvation. Studying their literature becomes a matter of life and death and therefore, the Witness remains under the complete control of the Watchtower. Sadly, one never knows how much knowledge he must take in to gain everlasting life.
NWT- “But you have approached a Mount Zion and a city of [the] living God, heavenly Jerusalem, and myriads of angels, in general assembly, and the congregation of the firstborn who have been enrolled in the heavens, and God the Judge of all, and the spiritual lives of righteous ones who have been made perfect.”
Let’s look at the end of v. 23 in the Greek:
Literal Greek Text- “....and to spirits of righteous (ones) having been perfected....”
Why has the Watchtower again violated their
own standard and paraphrased the word “spirits” from the Greek text into
“spiritual lives” in the NWT? Because, since the text is clearly speaking of
heaven, if the NWT used the accurate rendering “spirits”, it would conflict
with their doctrine of soul sleep. Soul sleep is the belief that man does not
possess an immaterial nature that survives the death of the physical body. The
Watchtower teaches that once a man is dead, he remains unconscious in the grave until the
future resurrection, which began, according to the Society, in 1918, when dead members
of the anointed class (the 144,000) were raised into heaven as
However, the above verse clearly states that in the first century A.D., when it
was written, there were already
spirits of saved men in heaven. The doctrine
of soul sleep can be refuted by many other scriptures such as
Mt. 10:28, Jn. 11:25-26, 2 Co. 5:8, Rev. 6:9-11. See
What is the
Condition of the Dead for further details on this subject.
See What is the Condition of the Dead for further details on this subject.
NWT- “For this very reason also God exalted him to a superior position and kindly gave him the name that is above every [other] name....”
Literal Greek Text- “through which also the God him put high up over, and he graciously gave to him the name the over every name....”
Why has the Watchtower inserted the word “other” in the NWT? Again, this conflicts with their theology that Jesus is a lesser being than that of the Father. If the word “other” is taken out of the text, the verse says that Jesus has been given the highest name in all the universe. This puts Jesus on a level equal with Jehovah God.
NWT- “because by means of him all [other] things have been created....all [other] things have been created through him....Also, he is before all [other] things and by means of him all [other] things were made to exist....”
Literal Greek Text- Suffice it to say that the word “other” is not found in the Greek text.
Why has the Watchtower added the word other four times in the above passage? Without the word “other” present, the text says that Jesus is the Creator of all things. By sticking the word other in, Jesus becomes Jehovah’s “master worker” who was created by Jehovah and was then used to create all other things in existence. Interestingly, the very first edition of the NWT’s New Testament didn’t even bracket the word “other” to show that it was added to the text. Later editions became somewhat more honest. However, many times when the Watchtower quotes the above verses in their literature, they remove the brackets. We see that again, the Greek text contradicts the Watchtower’s own theology.
NWT- “....because it is in him that all the fullness of the divine quality dwells bodily.”
Literal Greek Text- “....because in him is dwelling down all the fullness of the divinity bodily”
Why has the Watchtower translated the word divinity as divine quality? Again, just as in John 8:58, the verse has been paraphrased to strip Jesus of His Deity. The Watchtower teaches that when Jesus walked on the earth, he was nothing more than a perfect man. His very essence or being was not divine, he only possessed the qualities of divinity.
It is interesting that the 1969 KIT used the word godship instead of divinity in the literal Greek text, although the NWT on the right side still translated it “divine quality”. Although in Romans 1:20 when referring to the Father, the Watchtower translated the word “godship” in the Greek text into “Godship” in the NWT text. Does the words double-standard cross your mind? The fact that they changed the English word from godship in the 1969 version to divinity in the 1985 version is also revealing. On p.5 of the 1985 KIT, it says, “Between the lines of the Greek text will be found the word-for-word English translation of 1969”. However, we find an example here where it is not word-for-word from the 1969 translation. The Watchtower can’t even conform to their own standards.
NWT- “In [the] beginning the Word was, and the Word was with God, and the Word was a god.”
Literal Greek Text- “ In beginning was the Word, and the Word was toward the God, and god was the Word.”
Of all the scriptures in the NWT, this one in particular makes Christians cringe the most. The difference is obvious. Notice that their is no “a” in the Greek text before the last rendering of “god”. It has been inserted into the NWT. Why? The Watchtower argument from p.1139 of the 1985 KIT goes like this: “.... because the Greek word ....(theos) is a singular predicate noun occurring before the verb and is not preceded by the definite article.” What this means is that since the definite article, the, is before the first mention of God but not the second, and the verb, was, is after the second mention of god, then the rendering “a god” is justified. (If you’re thoroughly confused, don’t worry.)
This is a perfect example of the Watchtower making up a grammatical rule and only applying it when it fits their theology. If they applied this rule to the rest of the New Testament, the outcome would be ridiculous. The following are some examples of how a few scriptures would turn out in the book of John if they applied their rule consistently:
John 1:12 “However, as many as did receive him, to them he gave authority to become a god’s children.”
John 1:13 “and they were born, not from blood or from a fleshly will or from man’s will, but from a god’s.”
John 1:18 “No man has seen a god at any time....”.
John 3:2 “....Rabbi, we know that you as a teacher have come from a god....”
Obviously, the Watchtower has gone to great lengths to deny the Deity of Christ. They are hard-pressed to find any reputable source to agree with their translation of John 1:1. (see article Does the Watchtower Endorse Spirit Mediums) Even B.F. Westcott, whose Greek text is used in the KIT and is the basis for the NWT, doesn’t agree with them. He said, “The predicate (God) stands emphatically first, as in iv.24. It is necessarily without the article (theos not ho theos) inasmuch as it describes the nature of the Word and does not identify His Person....No idea of inferiority of nature is suggested by the form of expression, which simply affirms the true deity of the Word.” The Gospel According to St. John (Eerdmans, 1958 reprint), p.3.
Similarly, Greek scholar Dr. Julius R. Mantey, who was quoted in the 1969 KIT p.1159, called the Watchtower’s rendering of this verse, “A grossly misleading translation.”
NWT- “And these will depart into everlasting cutting-off, but the righteous ones into everlasting life.”
Literal Greek Text- “And will go off these into lopping off everlasting, but the righteous (ones) into life everlasting.”
Notice that the old English words “lopping off” in the Greek text have been translated as “cutting-off” in the NWT. Why haven’t they translated the words “lopping off” into “punishment” as do all reputable bible translations available today? Because, since the Watchtower doesn’t want any Jehovah’s Witnesses to believe in hell, a place of eternal punishment, they have to use the words “cutting-off” so that it will agree with their doctrine of annihilation. This is the belief that no one will go to a place of everlasting punishment, God will annihilate the unsaved so they will just cease to exist. Let’s compare this verse to another verse.
NWT- “....they released them, since they did not find any ground on which to punish them....”
Literal Greek Text- ....they released them, nothing finding the how they might lop off them....”
How did the NWT render the words “lop off” in this verse? PUNISH!
Obviously, the Watchtower is not consistent with their translation. When the words “lop off” are in a verse that doesn’t challenge their teaching, they use “punish”, but when it doesn’t agree with their doctrine they use “cutting-off”. Remember the statement written on p. 10 of the KIT: “To each major word we have assigned one meaning....”. Their goes that promise out the window.
NWT- “....and he will speak those things to you by which you and all your household may get saved.”
Literal Greek Text- “....who will speak sayings toward you in which will be saved you and all the house of you.”
Why has “will be saved” been translated into “may get saved”? Because a rank and file Jehovah’s Witnesses has no assurance of his salvation. The Watchtower’s gospel is a works based system so the Witness never knows if he has done enough to merit eternal life. There is no end to knocking on doors, taking in knowledge and serving at the Kingdom Hall. Even if he makes it into the thousand reign of Christ, he still may be annihilated if he doesn’t measure up to Jehovah’s standard. The Jehovah’s Witness is kept in a state of spiritual bondage. If he only knew that Christ’s blood frees us from dead works and gives all who place their faith in Him alone the assurance of eternal life (John 5:24, 10:28; 1 Peter 1:3-5).
In summary, it is obvious that the NWT is not an honest translation. The Watchtower has secretly smuggled in their own peculiar doctrines to the scriptures by paraphrasing and changing verses where necessary. No wonder why the Watchtower won‘t reveal the names of the men on the “New World Translation Committee”. Who would want to take the blame?
Finally, one must wonder what kind of organization can publish such a corrupted translation and say in their publication, All Scripture Is Inspired of God and Beneficial, “The New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures is a faithful translation of God’s Word....” p. 331. And, “Thanks be to God that he has provided the New World Translation, with its clear and accurate Bible text.” p.327
Tower To Truth Ministries