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How Accurate Is the New World Translation?
by Dr. David Doherty
The New World Translation is the version of the Bible endorsed and used by Jehovah’s Witnesses worldwide. But is it an accurate translation? We asked David Doherty, B.D., M.B.S., Th.M., D.B.S., Th.D., to address that question.
Dr. Doherty was a local church pastor for 13 years before joining the faculty of New Brunswick Bible Institute where he has now served as campus pastor and academic dean for nearly 20 years. He and his wife live in New Brunswick, Canada. They have four grown children and three grandchildren.
Truth may be denied, twisted, or suppressed. But it cannot be other than truth. God’s truth will stand forever (I Peter 1:23-25). The accuracy of the New World Translation (NWT) of the Bible may be examined by a study of several key doctrinal passages, as follows:
n Isaiah 9:6 is a Christological text in which the Messiah is pointedly declared to be “the Mighty God”. . . “El Gibbor” (see NWT). The same title of Deity is found again in Isaiah 10:21 and rendered as “the Mighty God” (see NWT). Jeremiah 32:18 uses the title and specifically declares that the Mighty God is “the Lord of hosts” or Jehovah of hosts. However, here the NWT wrongly translates it as “the mighty One.” In the term “El Gibbor,” Gibbor is the adjective. El is the key word and consistently refers to God.
• All discussions of NWT accuracy will consider John 1:1 where “the Word” is presented as being “a god” (NWT). This is said to be necessary to distinguish the Almighty God from a created god, based on the use of “God” with the article and “God” without the article. The truth is, “God” with the article reveals Divine personality, whereas “God” without the article presents Divine essence, as standard Greek grammars clearly state.
Greek grammar shows that when a predicate nominative occurs before the verb (as in the third clause of this verse) it doesn’t take an article. If the NWT translators were correct in assuming that “God” without the article should be rendered “a god,” then they violated their own fabricated “rule” in verses 6, 12, 13, and 18 of this same chapter – and 94% of the time in the New Testament.
It should also be noted that the use of “was” in this verse translates the imperfect form of the verb “to be,” which denotes “endless, timeless, existence.” Eternality is here ascribed to Jesus, the Word.
In defense of their NWT translation of John 1:1, an appeal is made to Acts 28:6. However, in Acts 28:6 the subject is a pronoun, and pronouns do not have articles. A further problem is noted by comparing Deuteronomy 32:39 (NWT) with John 1:1 (NWT). Deuteronomy 32:39 says that there are “no gods” while John 1:1 (NWT) declares Jesus
— The 1950 edition of the NWT rendered the last part of John 8:58 as, “. . . I have been” with a footnote claiming that this is properly rendered in the “perfect indefinite” tense. However, there is no such thing as the “perfect indefinite” tense. The Watchtower (an important Jehovah’s Witnesses organization) later claimed this was correctly rendered because it is a historical present. Such does exist, but it is used only in narratives. John 8 is not a narrative. The words Jesus used to identify Himself were “I Am” and are exactly the same as found in the Greek translation. Jesus quoted from Exodus 3:14. Those to whom Jesus spoke understood what He said. In the next verse they wanted to kill Him for claiming to be God. The NWT accurately translates “I Am” in John 4:26; 6:35, 48, 51; 8:12, 24, 28; 10:7, 11, 14; 11:25; 14:6; 15:1, 5, and 18:5, 6, 8. They only get it wrong in John 8:58.
— The NWT has no justification for adding the word “other” four times in Colossians 1:16-17. Jesus is the Creator of all things. This fact makes Him Deity. In light of Isaiah 44:24, Jehovah alone did the work of creation. Again, in Colossians 2:9, the fullness of the “Godhead” dwelt in Jesus bodily. The NWT renders Godhead as “divine quality.” But the word “Godhead” conveys the meaning of “that which God is,” as standard lexicons reveal.
— The NWT translates the last part of Revelation 3:14 as, “…the beginning of the creation by God.” The fact is, the text is genitive, not instrumental. The Greek text reads “of” the God (masculine, singular, genitive), not “by.” The Watchtower gets this right in their Kingdom Interlinear, but wrong in the NWT. Jesus is the beginning, meaning “origin, source, active cause” of creation. This text also reveals Jesus to be “the Amen,” who is Jehovah in Isaiah 65:16 [LXX] and “the faithful and true witness” who is Jehovah in Jeremiah 42:5 [LXX].
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