Darkness to Light Home Page

Additional Books and eBooks by the Director

New World Translation:

A Reliable Bible Version?

Edition 2.1

Updated December 2016

By Gary F. Zeolla,
the Director of Darkness to Light

The NWT is the Bible of Jehovah's Witnesses. This review evaluates the NWT by looking at select passages from Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians. The standards I use are the same standards that I use in my book Differences Between Bible Versions. Simply put, does the translation faithfully and accurately render the Greek text into English?

Available Formats

Paperback format: 77 pages. $3.50. Order from the publisher via their Web site Lulu Publishing. Also available from Amazon for $4.50.

Acrobat Reader® eBook format: 71 pages. $1.50. Purchase and download from Lulu Publishing.

ePub (for iPad, Nook, etc.) eBook: $1.50. Order and download from the publisher via their Web site Lulu Publishing.

Kindle Reading Device eBook: $1.25. Order and download from Amazon.


Readers

Download the free Acrobat Reader®

Purchase the Kindle Wireless Reading Device


Description

The New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures (NWT) is published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society (WT). This is the organization that Jehovah’s Witnesses belong to. But how reliable is this Bible version?

Much has been written about the NWT in regards to passages dealing with the deity of Christ. So rather than going over that much worn ground, this review will instead evaluate the NWT by looking at select passages from Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians.

The verses will be quoted first from the NWT, then from the word-for-word translation in the Watchtower’s own Kingdom Interlinear Translation of the Greek Scriptures (KIT). Since the NWT claims to be a literal version (see below), it will be seen how close it follows its own interlinear reading. And then the passage will be quoted from the New King James Version (NKJV) and from this reviewer’s own Analytical-Literal Translation: Third Edition (ALT3).

The standards I will use here are the same standards that I use in evaluating over thirty versions of the Bible in my book Differences Between Bible Versions. Simply put, does the translation faithfully and accurately render the Greek text into English?

More specifically, are words translated correctly? Are words left untranslated? Are words added without any indication that they have been added? Are the grammatical forms of words altered? Are phrases paraphrased rather than translated? How readable is the text? And how reliable is the Greek text being translated?

Edition 2.1. Updated December 2016.


Table of Contents

(page numbers from paperback)

Preface – 5

 About the Author – 6 

Background Details for the NWT – 7 

Verses from Ephesians Chapter One – 13 

Verses from Ephesians Chapter Two – 25 

Verses from Ephesians Chapter Three – 33 

Verses from Ephesians Chapter Four – 37 

Verses from Ephesians Chapters Five and Six – 47 

Translation Principle Classification of the NWT – 53 

Conclusion/ Bibliography – 57 

Appendix One: Current Books by the Author – 59 

Appendix Two: Proposed by the Author – 67 

Appendix Three: The Author’s Web Sites, Newsletters,

and Social Sites/ Contacting the Author – 75

 


Excerpts

Preface

 

      The New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures (NWT) is published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society (WT). This is the organization that Jehovah’s Witnesses belong to. But how reliable is this Bible version?

      Much has been written about the NWT in regards to passages dealing with the deity of Christ. As such, rather than going over that much worn ground, this review will instead evaluate the NWT by looking at select passages from Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians.

      The verses will be quoted first from the NWT and then from the word-for-word translation in the Watchtower’s own Kingdom Interlinear Translation of the Greek Scriptures (KIT). Since the WT claims the NWT is a literal version, it will be seen how closely it follows the strictly literal translation in their own interlinear. And then the verses will be quoted from the New King James Version (NKJV) and from this writer’s own Analytical-Literal Translation (ALT), following the most recent updates (see the Bibliography).

      The standards to be used here are the same standards that I use in evaluating over thirty versions of the Bible in my book Differences Between Bible Versions (see Appendix One). Simply put, does the translation faithfully and accurately render the Greek text into English?

      More specifically, are words translated correctly? Are words left untranslated? Are words added without any indication they have been added? Are the grammatical forms of words altered? Are phrases paraphrased rather than translated? How readable is the text? How reliable is the Greek text being translated?

      For this study, I will be utilizing the lexicons (Greek dictionaries) and other Greek reference works on BibleWorksTM for WindowsTM. I'll also refer to A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament by Dana and Mantey. This is Greek grammar I used in studying intermediate Greek at seminary.

 

About the Author

 

      The author has a B.S. in Nutrition Science (Penn State; 1983) and attended Denver Seminary from 1988-1990. He is the translator of the Analytical-Literal Translation of the Bible and the author of numerous Christian and fitness books. He is also a powerlifter, listed on Top 20 All-time open (all ages) ranking lists and holds All-time masters (50-59 age) American and world records.

      Zeolla is the director, webmaster, and primary writer for his four websites: his personal website (www.Zeolla.org), Darkness to Light Christian Ministry (www.Zeolla.org/Christian), Fitness for One and All (www.Zeolla.org/Fitness), Biblical and Constitutional Politics (www.Zeolla.org/Politics). A detailed autobiography is available on the first website.

 

 

Background Details for the NWT

     

      Before looking at the verses from Ephesians, it will be helpful to look at some background details for the NWT.

 

Greek Text-type

 

      The NWT utilizes Westcott and Hort’s Greek text of 1881. I am not sure why the Watchtower (WT) chose to use this outdated text. What I am sure of is that there are much better texts available today. And this would apply no matter where one stands in the Greek text debate.

      Three different Greek texts are generally used today to translate the New Testament from: the Textus Receptus (TR; King James Version, New King James Version), the Majority Text (MT; Analytical-Literal Translation, World English Bible), and the Critical Text (New International Version, New American Standard Bible, and most other modern-day versions).

      In my book, Differences Between Bible Versions, I detail why I prefer the MT to the TR and CT. I also explain that the TR is very similar to the MT, while I find the CT to be the least reliable of these three texts.

      But what relationship does the Westcott and Hort (WH) text have to these three texts? Basically, it is a precursor to the CT. Westcott and Hort were among the first scholars to advocate the primacy of the handful of early Alexandrian manuscripts to the much larger mass of Byzantine texts, so the WH text is almost exclusively an Alexandrian text and was based on the manuscripts known at that time.

      However, more recent discoveries have shown that many readings from the Byzantine tradition that were discarded by WH in fact have strong and early manuscript support. As such, more recent versions of the CT have re-inserted these readings into the CT. As such, over the years, the CT and the MT have grown more alike.

      To put it another way, the WH text is even more different from the MT/ TR than today’s CT is, and the WH text is more Alexandrian than today’s CT is. Given this, all of the arguments I put forth in my Bible versions book as to why I prefer the MT to the CT and the Byzantine textual tradition to the Alexandrian tradition would apply even more so to WH’s text.

      I won’t repeat those arguments here as they cover an entire section in my Bible versions book. I will simply say here that by using the WH text, I would already say the NWT is less reliable than it could be.

 

Translation Principles of the NWT

 

      The introductory pages to the KIT explain the translation principle utilized in the NWT.  The pages first state, “We have disposed of archaic language altogether, even in prayers and addresses to God.” And, “The translation of the Scriptures into a modern language should be rendered in the same style, in the speech forms current among the people” (p.9).

      With this practice, this reviewer is in agreement. There is no reason to use archaic language in a modern-day Bible version. Archaic language is by definition, archaic. The New Testament was originally written in the style of Greek the common person of the time utilized (known as Koine or common Greek). As such, modern-day and understandable terms should be utilized in translating the Bible.

      Moreover, the same pronouns are used in the Greek text in reference to God as are used in reference to people, so there is really no reason to translate them differently. And people today simply do not use terms like “thee” and “thou” in general conversation.

      However, there are technical terms in the Bible, and even if these are not that well known, they should be translated as such. The reason is that trying to “simplify” difficult words like “propitiation” usually leaves out important connotations of the original word. 

Next the KIT preface states about the NWT:

      We offer no paraphrase of the Scriptures. Our endeavor throughout has been to give as literal a translation as possible where the modern English idiom allows for it or where the thought content is not hidden due to any awkwardness in the literal rendering. In this way, we can best nearly meet the desire of those who are scrupulous for getting, as nearly as possible word for word, the exact statement of the original (p.9). 

      Thus the WT is saying the NWT is basically a literal version. Only when a literal translation would be excessively awkward does it deviate from literal. Since this reviewer translated a Bible version with “literal” in its name, I would obviously agree with the idea of producing a translation that is as literal as possible. But the questions will be: Is the NWT truly a literal translation? And how often did the WT believe it was necessary to deviate from a literal translation?

      The NWT also has a couple of interesting patterns, “To each major word we have assigned one meaning and have held to that meaning as far as context permitted.” And, “… we have avoided the rendering of two or more Greek words by the same English word” (p.10).

Verses from Ephesians Chapter One

 

Ephesians 1:1-2

 

NWT: 1Paul, apostle of Jesus Christ through God’s will, to the holy ones who are [in Ephesus] and faithful ones in union with Christ Jesus: 2may YOU have undeserved kindness and peace from God our Father and [the] Lord Jesus Christ.

KIT: 1Paul, apostle of Jesus Christ through will of God to the holy (ones) the ones being in Ephesus and to faithful ones in Christ Jesus: 2undeserved kindness to YOU and peace from God Father of us and of Lord Jesus Christ.

NKJV: 1Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, To the saints who are in Ephesus, and faithful in Christ Jesus: 2Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

ALT3: 1Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by [the] will of God, to the holy ones [or, saints], the [ones] being in Ephesus and faithful in Christ Jesus: 2Grace to you* and peace from God our Father and [the] Lord Jesus Christ!

      The first significant difference between these translations is “through God’s will” (NWT) or “through will of God” (KIT) vs. “by the will of God” (NKJV, ALT3). The preposition dia can mean “by” or “through” (Friberg), so either is possible. But it will be said, that along with ALT3 and NKJV, almost all other versions use “by” here.

      Second, the use of a contraction is somewhat unique. Only a few modern-day versions utilize contractions. However, it is not an incorrect way to render the Greek genitive. But the NWT is probably using this rendering to avoid adding “the” to the text. ALT3 brackets this added word while the NKJV does not.

      Next is “holy ones” versus “saints.” This rendering has already been mentioned. The NWT is avoiding the traditional translation of “saints.”

      Next, “in Ephesus” is in brackets in the NWT. The reason is this is one example of where WH considered the words to be an interpolation. The modern-day Critical Text also places these words in brackets. However, it is confusing that the NWT said in its introduction that such words would be in double-brackets. Also, they are not bracketed or double-bracketed in the KIT as would be expected.

      The Byzantine Majority Text, however, includes the words and does not have an alternative reading. The reason the MT does not have a footnote is only five Greek manuscripts omit these words. All other manuscripts contain them (Greek New Testament, p.601). As such, the evidence is not really divided as to their authenticity. I will not pursue this variant further here as I do so in the discussion on Ephesians in my book Why Are These Books in the Bible and Not Others? - Volume Two – A Translator’s Perspective on the Canon of the New Testament.

      But here, next to consider is the NWT using “in union with Christ Jesus” rather than just “in Christ Jesus.” The Greek word here is ev. Its most basic meaning is “within, in, withinness” (Friberg). Louw and Nida’s lexicon does give “in union with” as a possible meaning of the word. But this is very much an extended meaning of the word, not a true literal translation. As such, in my list of possible meanings for the word in the Companion Volume for the ALT, I do not give “in union with” as a possibility. Moreover, “in” is indicated as being the most basic meaning of the word (p.88). Even the WT’s own KIT uses simply “in.”

      I’m not sure why the WT chose to use “in union with” rather than the more literal and basic meaning of “in.” Maybe JWs find it hard to grasp the concept of being “in Christ.” This phrase means that the Father does not see believers and their sin, but He sees believers as being in Christ in the sense of being covered with Christ’s righteousness.

      Next is the phrase “may YOU have undeserved kindness” in the NWT vs. “Grace to you” (NKJV, ALT3). First, the traditional translation of the Greek word is “grace.” And this word means, “the freely given, unmerited favor and love of God” (Webster’s). And this meaning concurs perfectly with the meaning of the Greek word charis.

 

Friberg defines this word as:

      grace; (1) as a quality that adds delight or pleasure graciousness, attractiveness, charm (LU 4.22); (2) as a favorable attitude (a) act[ive] of what is felt toward another good will, favor (AC 2.47); (b) as a relig[ious] t.t. [technical term] for God’s attitude toward human beings kindness, grace, favor, helpfulness (JN 1.16, 17; EP 2.8); (3) concr. (a) of exceptional effects produced by God’s favor ability, power, enablement (RO 12.6; 1C 15.10); (b) of practical proofs of good will from] one pers[on] to another kind deed, benefit, favor (AC 24.27; 2C 1.15); collection for the poor, generous gift (1C 16.3); (4) as an experience or state resulting fr. God’s favor state of grace, favored position (RO 5.2); (5) as a verbal thank offering to God gratitude, thanks (1C 15.57; 2C 9.15); (6) as contained in formulas that express greetings or farewell in letters good will, favor, blessing (RO 1.7; 16.20).

 

      Thus the Greek word most definitely means, “grace,” but it can also mean “kindness” with the implication of it being undeserved. So there is nothing incorrect with the NWT rendering. However, since the word “grace” is a perfectly understandable and accurate word, I see no reason why it needed to be changed. I indicate this in my Companion Volume:

 

Grace: Greek, charis.

      There are various meanings of the Greek word, which are reflected in the English word “grace.” But Webster’s puts it best as “the freely given, unmerited favor and love of God.” This is most especially seen in God’s forgiving us of our sins when we trust in Jesus Christ for our salvation (Eph 2:4-10). (p.44).

 

      But more important on this verse is the NWT using “may YOU have” rather than “to you.” Now it is true that the phrase “Grace to you” implies that Paul is praying for grace to be bestowed on the Ephesians, but it is just that, an implication. The words “may” and “have” are not in the Greek text, nor is there a verb corresponding to “have.” The construction is simply a noun followed by the pronoun “you” in the dative case. And “Grace to you” is the most literal way to render this construction as the WT’s own KIT shows. At the very least, the words “may” and “have” should have been bracketed.

Verses from

Ephesians Chapter Three

 

Ephesians 3:7

 

NWT: I became a minister of this free gift according to the free gift of the undeserved kindness of God that was given to me according to the way his power operates.

KIT: of which I became servant according to the free gift of the undeserved kindness of the God of the having been given to me according to the operation within of the power of him

NKJV: of which I became a minister according to the gift of the grace of God given to me by the effective working of His power.

ALT3: of which I became a servant [or, minister] according to the free gift of the grace of God, the one having been given to me according to the supernatural working of His power.

      This verse concludes a sentence that began in 3:1. The NWT breaks up this long sentence into four sentences while the other three versions leave it as one sentence. Breaking up this long sentence requires the NWT to make minor changes to each verse. In this verse, the NWT changes the first word “of which” to “this” and moves it to later in the verse. But the most important difference is at the end of this verse.

      The NWT changes the noun “operation” (as the KIT has it) to the verb “operates.” To have a subject for this new verb, it adds the words “the way” without indicating it has done so.

 

Ephesians 3:13

 

NWT: Wherefore I ask YOU not to give up on account of these tribulations of mine in YOUR behalf, for these mean glory for YOU.

KIT: Through which I am requesting not to be behaving badly within in the tribulations of me over you, which is glory of you.

NKJV: Therefore I ask that you do not lose heart at my tribulations for you, which is your glory.

ALT3: For this reason, I ask [you*] to stop becoming discouraged because of my afflictions on behalf of you*, which is your* glory.

      This verse begins with the inferential conjunction dio, which means, “for this reason, therefore, wherefore” (Friberg). So the NWT’s rendering is possible. However, it is not the most natural, modern-day expression. The KIT’s rendering is even more awkward and not even accurate. Both the NKJV’s and ALT3’s renderings are accurate and common ways of expressing the inferential thought.

      The KIT’s “am requesting” is probably the result of the verb being in the present tense. The present tense in certain moods indicates ongoing action. However, in the indicative mood which it is in here the ongoing sense is rather rare. It more commonly is used with a punctiliar sense (Dana and Mantey, p. 181). So the KIT’s rendering is possible, but not likely.

      Both the NWT and the NKJV then add “you” without indicating it is added. This is a rare example for the NKJV as it generally does offset added words. But as has been seen, the NWT very commonly adds words without indicating it has done so.

      Next is an infinitive. Only the NKJV does not indicate the infinitive by using “to.” But it is not always necessary to do so.

 As for the meaning of the word, Friberg has:

      (1) strictly, act badly in some circumstance; w[ith] ptc. [participle] foll[owing] become weary or tired of doing something (2TH 3.13); (2) as failing to hold out successfully give up, become discouraged, lose heart (2C 4.1).

       Thus the KIT’s rendering is possible, but again, unnecessarily awkward. The word just as legitimately can be rendered as the other versions do.

      A notable difference here is ALT3 using “stop” rather than just “not.” The reason for this is the infinitive is in the present tense and is being used with an imperatival sense in this passage. And the present imperative with the negative indicates an action currently in progress must be stopped, not that the action should not begin as the other versions have it (Dana and Mantey, p.301).

      The NWT then has the somewhat awkward phrase “these tribulations of mine.” But “my tribulations” is just as legitimate of a translation and is much more readable.

      The NWT ends the verse with “for these mean glory for YOU” rather than the more literal “which is your glory” of the NKJV and ALT3. So the NWT has significantly altered this phrase, and doing so required it to add the several words (for, these, mean, for), but without bracketing them.

Translation Principle Classification of the NWT?

 

      In its preface, the NWT claims to be a literal translation, with changes only made to the text where a literal translation would be excessively awkward. It specifically says it is not a paraphrase. It also says that it will bracket words added for clarity.

      However, as this evaluation has shown, the NWT veers from a literal translation in many places, far more than is necessary to avoid excessive awkwardness. Many times the grammatical forms of words are altered. There are times where the NWT goes as far as to paraphrase rather than translate a passage. And numerous words have been added that are not bracketed.

      In my book Differences Between Bible Versions I divide Bible versions into five different classifications. Into which classification would I have placed the NWT if I had included it in my book? Before answering this question, a quick overview of the five principles would be helpful. 

Literal: EVERY SINGLE WORD of the Greek text is translated. All words added for clarity are bracketed. Words are translated with the same grammatical forms as they are in the Greek text, i.e., nouns are translated as nouns, adjectives as adjectives, etc. Word order is changed only as much as is absolutely necessary for readability.

Formal Equivalence: The Greek text is translated as WORD FOR WORD as possible. Some minor words (like “indeed”) are left untranslated. Most words added for clarity are bracketed. The grammatical forms of words are sometimes, though rarely, changed. Word order is changed as needed for clarity.

Dynamic Equivalence: Attempts to express the MEANING of the original. Words are frequently left untranslated. Words added for clarity are not bracketed. The grammatical forms of words are frequently changed. And the word order is often far from the Greek word order.

Expanded: One author attempts to bring out NUANCES of the original languages. Special features of Greek grammar are indicated, such as bringing out the ongoing sense of the present imperative. Alternative meanings for words are often included.

Paraphrase: The text is REWORDED by one author to make it as simple as possible. Very little regard is given to the actual words and grammar of the original text (summarized from Chapters Two through Four of my book).

      So where would the NWT fit at? First it must be said, in this evaluation I have picked out the “worst” examples from Ephesians that I could find of where the NWT deviates from a literal translation. In most of the remaining verses the NWT does utilize a basically literal translation.

      As such, if just those more literal verses were looked at, then the NWT could be classified as what it claims to be, a literal version. However, as the examples in this booklet show, there are just too many times where the NWT deviates from a literal translation for such a classification. ALT3 was included in the evaluations to show how very much the NWT differs from a true literal translation.

      Moreover, given that at times the NWT frequently alters the grammatical forms of words, occasionally paraphrases, and adds numerous words without indicating it has done so, the NWT cannot really be classified as a formal equivalence version either. The NKJV (a formal equivalence version) was included to show how many more changes the NWT makes to the text than a true formal equivalence version does.

      Now the NWT does have some features of an expanded version. It occasionally brings out nuances of the Greek text, such as the present imperative. But it is simply too inconsistent in this regard for it to be classified as a true expanded version. This review showed that ALT3, which has expanded features, is much more consistent in bringing out these finer details of the Greek text.

      Even though the NWT does paraphrase at times, this only occurs occasionally. In other places it is much more literal than a paraphrase would be. Moreover, the NWT was translated by five men, not just one. So it would not be considered to be a paraphrase.

      That leaves dynamic equivalence. A true dynamic equivalence version never offsets words added for clarity, while the NWT does occasionally. But much more often in the NWT, added words are not bracketed. The grammar of words is not changed as much in the NWT as in a true dynamic equivalence version, but they are changed more often than in a formal equivalence version.

      Similarly, word order is altered more often in the NWT than in a formal equivalent version, but less often than in a dynamic equivalent version. And almost all words are translated in the NWT as in a formal equivalence version but not in a dynamic equivalence version.

 

The above preview was first posted on this Web site July 14, 2001.
It was updated for Edition 2.1 December 24, 2016.

Additional Books and eBooks by the Director

Alphabetical List of Pages     Subject Index
Contact Information

Darkness to Light Home Page
www.dtl.org

test