There is an amazing amount of evidence that the New World Translation is more than just a mistranslation of the scriptures. It turns out that it's actually a very dishonest version of the Bible.
The New World Translation is at the center of the misconceptions of Jehovah's Witnesses over the nature of Christ. Specifically, the 'restoration' of the divine name to the Christian Greek scriptures. Probably the most distinctive feature of the NWT is the restoration of the divine name. For the Hebrew scriptures, this is a relatively simple process of translating the tetragrammaton (YHWH) to the English name 'Jehovah'. The restoration of the divine name to the Christian Greek scriptures is another matter however. The justification came from what are referred to as the 'J' documents listed in the introduction to the NWT. At first, I thought there might be some merit for including the divine name at points in the Greek scriptures. It seemed reasonable to me that early Christian writers who were quoting Hebrew scripture would use the divine name in their quotes. One of the sources that the translation committee quotes is an article written by George Howard of the University of Georgia.
*** Rbi8 p. 1564 1D The Divine Name in the Christian Greek Scriptures ***
Concerning the use of the Tetragrammaton in the Christian Greek Scriptures, George Howard of the University of Georgia wrote in Journal of Biblical Literature, Vol. 96, 1977, p. 63: “Recent discoveries in Egypt and the Judean Desert allow us to see first hand the use of God’s name in pre-Christian times. These discoveries are significant for N[ew] T[estament] studies in that they form a literary analogy with the earliest Christian documents and may explain how NT authors used the divine name. In the following pages we will set forth a theory that the divine name,( יהוה and possibly abbreviations of it), was originally written in the NT quotations of and allusions to the O[ld] T[estament] and that in the course of time it was replaced mainly with the surrogate ? [abbreviation for Ky′ri‧os, “Lord”]. This removal of the Tetragram[maton], in our view, created a confusion in the minds of early Gentile Christians about the relationship between the ‘Lord God’ and the ‘Lord Christ’ which is reflected in the MS tradition of the NT text itself.”
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.
The translation committee did not consider George Howard's views as theory, but George Howard did. In the article The "NEW WORLD TRANSLATION"— Scholarly and Honest? by B J Kotwall (Investigator 19, 1991 July), George Howard responded to the Watchtower Society's claims.
The University of Georgia
January 9, 1990
Portland, ME 04104
Dear Mr. Butt:
Thank you for your letter of 3 January 1990. I have been distressed for sometime about the use the Jehovah’s Witnesses are making of my publications. My research does not support their denial of the deity of Christ. What I tried to show was that there is evidence that the Septuagint Bibles used by the writers of the New Testament contained the Hebrew Tetragrammaton. I argued that it is reasonable to assume that the NT writers, when quoting from the Septuagint, retained the Tetragrammaton in the quotations. This does not support the JW’s insertion of "Jehovah" in every place they want. To do this is to remove the NT from its original "theological climate." My opinion of the New World Translation (based on limited exposure) is that it is odd. I suspect that it is a Translation designed to support JW theology. Finally, my theory about the Tetragrammaton is just that, a theory. Some of my colleagues disagree with me (for example Albert Pietersma). Theories like mine are important to be set forth so that others can investigate their probability and implications. Until they are proven (and mine has not been proven) they should not be used as a surety for belief.
Going further, the Watchtower Society's New World Translation (NWT) committee was not consistent in its 'restoration' of the divine name to the Greek scriptures. The NWT appendix states that haAdohn is a title limited exclusively to Jehovah God and that Adoni refers to Jesus as My Lord. They mostly followed this rule, breaking it when Jesus is referred to as Jehovah.
I think the bigger question is why were the 'J' documents even used? The 'J' documents used were not copies of scripture, but translations from Greek into Hebrew. The two most heavily used texts used by the Watchtower Society were a translation (version) of the original Greek Scriptures into Hebrew published by Elias Hutter of Nuremberg in 1599 and a translation published by an organization in England identified as THE TRINITARIAN BIBLE SOCIETY. How are these texts an authoritative witness? The dates of documents J1-J9 range from 1385-1661. The 14th and 15th centuries produced some of the most inaccurate translations that we have today. A translation from that time would have most likely have been based on the Textus Receptus which was basically any translation based on the the work of Desiderius Erasmus who based his translation primarily on two 12th century Greek texts which are known to contain many errors. In our time, we have so many sources that represent the oldest, best known manuscripts that date back to the 2nd,3rd, and 4th centuries that it seems odd at best that the Watchtower Society would choose a text from an era known by 20th century text critics to be a time of inaccurate translations. I could not find much information about the J17 and J18 documents by the Trinitarian Bible Society except that they were published in 1877 and 1885 respectively. Even so, why would a translation from Greek to Hebrew be any more of an authority than a translation from Greek to Japanese?
The Watchtower society also used Codex Sinaiticus, an early uncial Greek manuscript and Codex Vaticanus (MS No, 1209), also an early uncial Greek manuscript as sources for their translation. Both of these texts are considered pretty reliable, however the tetragrammaton (YHWH) is never used in these texts even when early Christian writers were quoting Hebrew scripture.
As it turns out, there are no Greek texts that use the tetragrammaton. There is no evidence that the divine name was removed from the Christian Greek scriptures. The Watchtower Society justifies adding the divine name to its English translation by saying that when translators translated Greek scripture that quoted Hebrew scripture, they used the tetragrammaton where the scripture quoted used the tetragrammaton.
*** Rbi8 p. 1564 1D The Divine Name in the Christian Greek Scriptures ***
Sometime during the second or third century C.E. the scribes removed the Tetragrammaton from both the Septuagint and the Christian Greek Scriptures and replaced it with Ky′ri‧os, “Lord” or The‧os′, “God.”
The truth is that there is no evidence that some apostate movement in the 2nd century intentionally removed the divine name from the Greek scriptures. The controversies at the time had nothing to do with whether the divine name should be used. There were fierce debates about the nature of Jesus, but apparently no arguments over the use of the divine name. We have evidence of the disagreements of the time, which is why we know about other 'Christian' teachings. It would follow that if there were some debate over the use of the divine name that we would see some kind of evidence that the debate existed. I would also expect that if the Watchtower Society had evidence of this anti-divine name debate, they would let the rest of us know about it.
There also appears to be the influence of existing Watchtower Society doctrine in the New World Translation. Take a look at John 17:3 from several translations.
And this is eternal life, that they may know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom Thou hast sent. (John 17:3, NASB)
Now this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. (John 17:3, NIV)
But this is the everlasting life in order that they may be knowing you the only true God and Jesus Christ whom you sent forth. (John 17:3, The Kingdom Interlinear Translation of the Greek Scriptures)
And this is the age-lasting life, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent. (John 17:3, The Emphatic Diaglott)
This means everlasting life, their taking in knowledge of you, the only true God, and of the one whom you sent forth, Jesus Christ. (John 17:3, The New World Translation)
The NWT says something very different from the others. The other translations say that everlasting life comes through knowing the true God and Jesus Christ. The NWT however, says that learning about God and Christ is how everlasting life is gained. Notice how the Watchtower Society uses this scripture.
*** w07 3/15 p. 7 What Christ’s Coming Will Accomplish ***
What must you do to enjoy the blessings that Christ’s rule will shower upon mankind? Undertake a careful study of God’s Word, the Bible. In a prayer to his Father, Jesus said: “This means everlasting life, their taking in knowledge of you, the only true God, and of the one whom you sent forth, Jesus Christ.” (John 17:3) Make it your goal to examine what the Bible teaches. Jehovah’s Witnesses in your area will be happy to assist you in this regard.
*** w06 1/1 pp. 6-7 How Good Will Conquer Evil ***
Throughout the past century and up until now, Jehovah’s Witnesses have zealously fulfilled Jesus’ commission: “Go therefore and make disciples of people of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the holy spirit, teaching them to observe all the things I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:19, 20) Those who respond to this message have the prospect of living forever on earth under Christ’s heavenly government. Jesus said: “This means everlasting life, their taking in knowledge of you, the only true God, and of the one whom you sent forth, Jesus Christ.” (John 17:3) Helping someone to gain this knowledge is the greatest good one person can do for another.
*** w06 8/15 p. 7 “As in Heaven, Also Upon Earth” ***
Everlasting life on earth is what the Creator, the God who ‘has not changed,’ originally purposed. (Malachi 3:6; John 17:3; James 1:17) For more than a century, this magazine, The Watchtower, has explained these two aspects in the accomplishing of the divine purpose. This allows us to understand the promises of an earthly restoration that are found in the Scriptures.
*** w06 9/15 pp. 6-7 Are We Really Living in “the Last Days”? ***
Only those standing in an approved condition before the Son of man, Jesus, will have the prospect of surviving the end of this system of things. How vital that we use the remaining time to seek the approval of Jehovah God and Jesus Christ! In prayer to God, Jesus said: “This means everlasting life, their taking in knowledge of you, the only true God, and of the one whom you sent forth, Jesus Christ.” (John 17:3) It is, then, the course of wisdom on your part to learn more about Jehovah God and his requirements. Jehovah’s Witnesses in your community will be happy to assist you in understanding what the Bible teaches.
The Watchtower Society uses John 17:3 to emphasize studying their publications instead of what the scripture is actually about, a Christian's personal relationship with God and Christ.
Another facet of this issue that should be examined is whether, in fact, the Watchtower Society translation committee was qualified to produce a translation of the scriptures. The names of those on this committee are kept secret so as to 'give all glory to Jehovah God'. We know from other sources that the NWT translators were: Nathan Knorr, Albert Schroeder, George Gangas, Fred Franz, M. Henschel
* "Fred Franz however, was the only one with sufficient knowledge of the Bible languages to attempt translation of this kind. He had studied Greek for two years in the University of Cincinnati but was only self-taught in Hebrew." ["Crisis of Conscience"; by Raymond Franz; Commentary Press, Atlanta; 1983 edition; footnote 15; page 50.]
However, in 1954 the Watchtower Society was on trial in Scotland in order to prove that Jehovah's Witnesses were a genuine religion whose members could be exempt from military service, Franz was put to the test regarding his abilities as a translator. I have the scan of the entire transcript of this trial if anyone is interested.
Tuesday, 23rd November, 1954:— Douglas Walsh Trial, Pursuer’s Proof, 1954, pp. 7-9, 88, 91-92, 102-103
Frederick William Franz, Examined:
Q. Have you also made yourself familiar with Hebrew?
Q. So that you have a substantial linguistic apparatus at your command?
A. Yes, for use in my biblical work.
Q. I think you are able to read and follow the Bible in Hebrew, Greek, Latin, Spanish, Portuguese, German, and French?
Q. It is the case, is it not, that in 1950 there was prepared and issued what is called the New World Translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures?
Q. I think that it was your duty, was it not, before the issue of that New World Translation by your Society to check that translation for accuracy?
A. That is true.
Q. In light of your studies and in light of your knowledge?
A. That is true.
Q. And did you do so?
A. I did so....
Q. And was it your duty on behalf of the Society to check the translation into English from the original Hebrew of that first volume of the Old Testament Scriptures?
Q. In so far as translation of the Bible itself is undertaken, are you responsible for that?
A. I have been authorised to examine a translation and determine its accuracy and recommend its acceptance in the form in which it is submitted.
Q. Are the translators members of the Editorial Committee?
A. That is a question which I, as a member of the Board of Directors, am not authorised to disclose....
Q. When did you go to the University?....
Q. Did you graduate?
A. No, I did not....
Q. Had you done any Hebrew in the course of your University work?
A. No, I had not, but in the course of my editorial work, my special research work for the president of the Society, I found it was very necessary to have knowledge of Hebrew, and so I undertook a personal study of that.
Wednesday, 24th November, 1954:
Frederick William Franz, Cross Continued:
Q. You, yourself, read and speak Hebrew, do you?
A. I do not speak Hebrew.
Q. You do not?
Q. Can you, yourself, translate that into Hebrew?
Q. That fourth verse of the Second Chapter of Genesis?
A. You mean here?
A. No, I won’t attempt to do that.
What Franz "wouldn't attempt" to translate into Hebrew is what many have said as a simple exercise an average first or second-year Hebrew student in seminary would be able to do even though he testified that he had 'a substantial linguistic apparatus at his command' and that he could "read and follow the Bible in Hebrew". Franz could neither speak Hebrew nor translate the English to Hebrew. The President of the Watchtower allowed Jehovah's Witnesses to believe he is a Bible scholar having an education in Biblical languages. The facts show otherwise. He is not a scholar.
What about the others on the translation committee? Here's a rundown of their credentials.
Nathan H. Knorr: No training in biblical languages. Entered Brooklyn headquarters in 1923; 3rd president of WTS from 1942 to 1977.
Milton G. Henschel: No training in biblical languages. Private secretary and traveling companion to N. H. Knorr from late 1940s until early 1970s. 4th president of WTS from 1992 to 2000.
Albert D. Schroeder: No training in biblical languages. Took 3 years of mechanical engineering, unspecified language courses in college, dropped out in 1932 and soon entered Brooklyn headquarters. Registrar of "Gilead School" from 1942 to 1959.
George D. Gangas: No training in biblical languages. Greek-speaking Turkish national, entered Brooklyn headquarters in 1928 as a Greek translator from English to modern Greek (as opposed to the Greek of the first century) publications.
So that's it. The only one who claimed any ability to translate the scriptures from their original languages, Franz, couldn't do it when cross examined. The rest of the men on the translation committee were completely unqualified for the task. If the Watchtower Society really believed that "IT IS a very responsible thing to translate the Holy Scriptures from their original languages of Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek into modern speech", then why didn't they staff the translation committee with people who could actually do the job?
*** w74 12/15 p. 768 Questions From Readers ***
In translating God’s Word, the New World Bible Translation Committee has felt that the particulars of their university or other educational training are not the important thing, though the translation itself testifies to their qualifications.
The Watchtower Society asserts that it is not the 'educational training' that matters but the translation itself. If that's the case, we need to see what the experts have to say.
Dr. Julius 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. Here's what he has to say about another Watchtower Society translation of the Bible.
I have 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.
- Julius Mantey, Depth Exploration in the New Testament (NY: Vantage Press, 1980), pp. 136-37.
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 the Greek."
- Bruce Metzger, "The Jehovah’s Witnesses and Jesus Christ," rpt. of April 1953, Theology Today (Princeton, NJ: Theological Book Agency, 1953), p. 74.
… the 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.
-Anthony Hoekema, The Four Major Cults (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1960), pp. 238-39.
A sound 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.
-Edmond Gruss, Apostles of Denial (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1976), pp. 236-37.
Dr. Robert Countess’ published doctoral thesis, The Jehovah’s Witness New 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 the NWT:
…has been 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.
- Robert Countess, The Jehovah’s Witness New Testament (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1983), pp. 91, 93.
So apparently the 'translation' itself does indeed testify to the qualifications of the translation committee and this testimony agrees with their lack of educational training. The New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures is an inaccurate version of the Bible.