Comments on the New World Translation
Countess’ published doctoral thesis, The Jehovah’s Witness
Testament: A Critical Analysis of the New World Translation of the
Christian Greek Scriptures (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and
Reformed 1982), is perhaps the most thorough and devastating critique
of the New World Translation [NWT]. His overall conclusions are that
sharply unsuccessful in keeping doctrinal considerations from
influencing the actual translation…the New World Translation of the
Christian Greek Scriptures must be viewed as a radically biased
piece of work. At some points it is actually dishonest. At others it
is neither modern or scholarly. And interwoven throughout its fabric
is inconsistent application of its own principles enunciated in the
Foreword and Appendix.1
Edmond Gruss, author of a standard historical and theological work,
Apostles of Denial, writes:
interpretation of any passage requires a careful grammatical
exegesis. Watchtower publications repeatedly present doctrines and
interpretations of the Scriptures which completely misunderstand or
ignore grammar. Before the Society entered into the field of
translation, there were many verses which gave them trouble because
of their direct contradiction of the Witnesses’ doctrines. With the
appearance of the New World Translation the difficult
passages in many cases were weakened or eliminated by a translation
that violated or ignored the rules of grammar.2
Hoekema, author of The Four Major Cults points out that:
Jehovah’s Witnesses actually impose their own theological system
upon Scripture and force it to comply with their beliefs.… their New
World Translation of the Bible is by no means an objective rendering
of the sacred text into modern English, but is a biased translation
in which many of their peculiar teachings of the Watchtower Society
are smuggled into the text of the Bible itself.3
The late Dr.
Walter Martin, author of Jehovah of the Watchtower, and a
respected authority on cults, observes that of the anonymous seven-member
translation committee at least five had no training in Greek:
books possess a veneer of scholarship unrivaled for its daring and
boldness in a field that all informed scholars know Jehovah’s
Witnesses are almost totally unprepared to venture into. As a matter
of fact, the authors have been able to uncover partially a carefully
guarded Watchtower secret: the names of five of the members of the
New World Translation committee. Not one of these five people has
any training in Greek…[or Hebrew].4
Dr. Bruce Metzger,
professor of New Testament Language and Literature at Princeton
Theological Seminary and author of The Text of the New Testament
states: "…the Jehovah’s Witnesses have incorporated in their
translation of the New Testament several quite erroneous renderings of
Mantey was one of the leading Greek scholars in the world and
co-author of The Dana-Mantey Greek Grammar and A Hellenistic
Greek Reader. He declares:
never read any New Testament so badly translated as The Kingdom
Interlinear Translation of the Greek Scriptures. In fact, it is
not their translation at all. Rather, it is a distortion of the New
Testament. The translators used what J. B. Rotherham had translated
in 1893, in modern speech, and changed the readings in scores of
passages to state what Jehovah’s Witnesses believe and teach. That
is distortion, not translation.6
In light of
the above testimony, we must conclude that the scholarly Christian
community has rendered its verdict on the NWT: such a translation must
not be trusted to accurately convey God’s Word because of its
unrelenting biases in translation. Nor can Jehovah’s Witnesses appeal
to an alleged "trinitarian bias" on the part of these scholars for the
issue is not personal theology but accuracy in translation. Even
non-Christian scholars of New Testament Greek would agree that the NWT
is not an accurate one, for rules of languages, grammar, and
translation are true regardless of personal theological belief. We
will now proceed to document several examples of mistranslation in the
NWT, as confirmation of the above testimony and our thesis in general.
Watchtower Society tells us that "Jehovah is against such clergy
prophets whom he did not send forth from his intimate group and who
‘steal’ words from his Bible in order to make a wrong application of
them…he will rid himself of this ‘burden’ by abandoning Christendom to
calamity…. To such self-opinionated religionists, the Jeremiah class
[Jehovah’s Witnesses] say: ‘You have changed the words of the living
God…’"7 The Witnesses also
declare, "God does not deal with persons who ignore his Word and go
according to their own independent ideas."8
But who is
it that really "steals" or "ignores" God’s words in order to bolster
their own independent ideas?
following section we have utilized the Watchtower Society’s New
World Translation and Kingdom Interlinear Translation of the
Greek Scriptures (1969). It gives the Greek text, a word for word
English translation below the Greek text, and has a column containing
the New World Translation to the right.
following examples we have provided the New World Translation
and the New American Standard translation so the reader may
make a quick comparison prior to a brief discussion. The NWT
mistranslation is supplied in capital letters for emphasis.
25:46 ["Punishment" is translated "cutting
off" to support their theology of annihilation of the wicked (or
will depart into everlasting CUTTING-OFF but the righteous ones into
everlasting life." NWT
will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal
kolasin is translated "cutting-off" in order to escape the text’s
teaching of eternal punishment. How do standard Greek lexicons define
J. H. Moulton and G. Milligan in The Vocabulary of
the Greek New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1980, p.
352) give an illustration of the meaning of kolasin as
"punishment and much torment."
H. K. Moulton in The Analytical Greek Lexicon
Revised (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1978, p. 235) defines it
as "chastisement, punishment."
• New Thayer’s Greek English Lexicon
(Wilmington, DE: Associated Publishers and Authors, 1974, 1977, p.
353) defines it as "correction, punishment, penalty."
The Arndt and Gingrich Greek-English Lexicon
(Chicago: University of Chicago, 1967, p. 441) states "1.
punishment… 2. of divine retribution… go away into eternal
punishment, Matt. 25:45."
Gerhard Kittle (ed) in the Theological Dictionary
of New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1978, Vol. 3, p.
816) defines it as "punishment."
hundreds of years, words may evolve in meaning, hence kolasin
at one time could be translated "cutting-off," meaning the removal of
that which is evil. It could also have the meaning of punishment for
the purposes of correction.9
However, that this was not its intended meaning in biblical
times is evident from the two quotations by Greek scholars, Mantey and
Trench, given below (Greek words are transliterated by this author):
Jehovah’s Witnesses’ New World Translation and Kingdom
Interlinear Translation (Matt. 25:46), the Greek word kolasin,
which is regularly defined as "punishment" in Greek lexicons, is
translated "cutting-off," in spite of the fact that there isn’t a
shred of lexical evidence anywhere for such a translation. We have
found this word in first-century Greek writings in 107 different
contexts and in every one of them, it has the meaning of
"punishment," and never "cutting-off." But since their premise is
that there can be no eternal punishment, they have translated the
Scripture to make it somewhat compatible with their theology….
Kolasin is also mistranslated "restraint" in 1 John 4:18.10
[[quote]] The kolasis
aionios of Matt. xxv.46, as it is plain, is not merely corrective,
and therefore temporary, discipline;…for in proof that kolasis
with kolazesthai had acquired in Hellenistic Greek this severer
sense, and was used simply as "punishment" or "torment," with no
necessary underthought of the bettering through it of him who endured
it, we have only to refer to such passages as the following: Josephus,
Antt.xv. 2.2; Phil, De Agric. 9; Mart. Polycarp. 2; 2 Macc iv 38; Wisd.
xix.4; and indeed the words of St. Peter himself (2 Ep. II.9).11
("Mistranslations" will be continued in Part 2)
1 Robert Countess, The
Jehovah’s Witness New Testament (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian
and Reformed, 1983), pp. 91, 93.
2 Edmond Gruss,
Apostles of Denial (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1976), pp. 236-37.
3 Anthony Hoekema, The
Four Major Cults (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1960), pp. 238-39.
4 Walter Martin,
Jehovah of the Watchtower (Chicago, IL: Moody, 1974), pp. 129,
175-78, cf., Gruss, p. 198.
5 Bruce Metzger, "The
Jehovah’s Witnesses and Jesus Christ," rpt. of April 1953,
Theology Today (Princeton, NJ: Theological Book Agency, 1953),
6 Julius Mantey, Depth
Exploration in the New Testament (NY: Vantage Press, 1980), pp.
7 "The Royal Shepherd of
Bible Prophecy," The Watchtower, Vol. 100, no. 17, Sept. 1,
1979 (Brooklyn, NY: WBTS), p. 30.
8 The Watchtower,
March 15, 1972, p. 189.
9 Colin Brown, The New
International Dictionary of New Testament Theology (Grand
Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1973), Vol. 3, "Punishment"; R. C. Trench,
Synonyms of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans,
1978), pp. 24-25.
10 Mantey, Depth
Exploration, p. 142.
11 Trench, pp. 25-26.