Saturday, October 08, 2005

The NWT and Inserting Words

In my studies on the New World Translations (NWT), the "preferred" translation for Jehovah's Witnesses (translated by Jehovah's Witnesses), I came across a number of instances where the NWT actually inserts words, in the English, that do not belong. Of course, whether people know it or not, pretty much every English translation inserts words here and there so that the English will make sense. Otherwise, it would sound more like broken English in many places. However, there is an obvious theme when one begins to examine the common insertion of words in the NWT. They are not words that help the English flow more fluently. They are words that actually alter the meaning of the text. The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society will defend all of these "translation decisions", of course, but I hope I can demonstrate very briefly that these "decisions" a) are unwarranted and obscure the original language of the Biblical text, and b) have a common theme or agenda behind them.

This is not an exhaustive look, by any stretch, and it focuses on the New Testament, translated from the original Greek. It seems best, for the sake of organization, to separate this brief look into two parts. First, we shall study what I call the "Granville Sharp texts". After that, we shall look at what I call the "[other] texts". While the prologue to John's Gospel technically fits under verses where the NWT inserts words (saying "the word was a god" rather than "the Word was God"), it seems best, given how tremendously packed those verses are, to save it for a separate discussion.

Granville Sharp Texts

We all know that there are rules of grammar for every language, otherwise it would be very difficult to understand what is being conveyed by that language. There is a Greek rule of grammar known to Biblical Greek students and scholars as "Granville Sharp's Rule". It is very simple. It basically says that when two singular nouns, that are not proper names (like Paul or Peter or Timothy), describing a person are found in the same case and connected by "and" (Gr. kai) with the first noun having the article "the" and the second lacking it, both nouns refer to the same person. They form a whole that describes the same person.

An example (2 Pet 3:18):

"but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen. " (2 Peter 3:18)

The translated Greek for the bolded text is: tou kuriou hemon kai soteros Iesou Christou, which is literally translated. the (tou) Lord (kuriou) of us (hemon) and (kai) Savior (soteros) Jesus Christ (Iesou Christou).

The NWT actually translates this verse correctly. Granville Sharp's rule tells us that the phrase "the Lord of us and Savior" as a whole refers to Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is both "Lord of us" and "Savior". Notice "the Lord of us" is not one person, and then "Savior, Jesus Christ" is referring to another person. They both, together, refer to Jesus Christ.

Another example (2 Pet 1:11):

"for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you. " (2 Peter 1:11)

This is the same thing. The same exact Greek phrase is found here, and, more importantly, the same Granville Sharp construction. The transliterated Greek, again, is: tou kuriou hemon kai soteros Iesou Christou. Again, the NWT follows the grammatical rule and translates this verse correctly. Both "Lord" and "Savior" apply to a single person, "Jesus Christ". There are not two persons in view but one. This is another clear example of a Granville Sharp construction in Peter's second epistle. In fact, there are a total of five Granville Sharp constructions in 2 Peter.

But is the NWT consistent in their treatment of Granville Sharp constructions? No, it is not, unfortunately, and it is indeed suspicious that the verses in which they choose to diverge from this rule of grammar are verses that speak explicitly of the Deity of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is clear from Watchtower writings that the Jehovah's Witnesses utterly reject the teaching that Jesus is God in human flesh. But as we examine these mis-translations, let us ask ourselves if they are seeking to translate the text honestly in the NWT or if they are seeking to harmonize the text of Scripture with their preconceived set of beliefs.

Here is a text where they overtly deny this grammatical rule. Compare these two translations of 2 Peter 1:1.

"Simon Peter, a slave and apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who have obtained a faith, held in equal privilege with ours, by the righteousness of our God and [the] Savior Jesus Christ" (2 Pet 1:1,NWT)

"Simon Peter, a bond-servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours, by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ" (2 Pet 1:1, NASB)

The first translation is the NWT and the second is the New American Standard Bible (NASB). Excluding the minor differences in the choice of English words in the rest of the verse, the bolded section is different between the two. This is a Granville Sharp construction. Notice how the NWT inserts the word "the" before "Savior Jesus Christ". The word is put in brackets in the NWT text. Notice that for the other Granville Sharp constructions it was not necessary to insert "the" before the second noun in the clause, so why in this particular verse?

It is not for no reason. Notice the difference in meaning when the word "the" is inserted just before "Savior". Suddenly you have "our God... and the Savior, Jesus Christ" -two different people! But this is not what the text says. According to the Granville Sharp rule, the same rule which the NWT translators followed in the other verses from 2 Peter, the terms "God" and "Savior" both refer to Jesus.

Compare the Greek construction from 2 Pet 1:1 to one of the other verses we just looked at, 2 Pet 1:11.

...tou (the) theou (God) hemon (of us) kai (and) soteros (savior) Iesou Christou (Jesus Christ) (2 Pet 1:1)

...tou (the) kuriou (Lord) hemon (of us) kai (and) soteros (savior) Iesou Christou (Jesus Christ) (2 Pet 1:11)

The construction is identical. There is one word different. 2 Pet 1:1 uses the word theou (God) rather than kuriou (Lord). The same rule should very well apply here, but the NWT denies it. Again, why? It is clear that it is because for theou and soteros together (God and Savior) to both refer to Jesus, which Granville Sharp's rule clearly demonstrates, is to assert His Deity -something which the Jehovah's Witnesses reject. There is an inconsistency here that is completely unwarranted, unless you refuse to accept what the text is saying.

Here is one more example from Paul's writings. The text is Titus 2:13:

"looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus" (Titus 2:13)

Again, this is another construction that fits the rule. In the Greek we have: tou megalou theou kai soteros hemon Iesou Christou. The basic form includes the words: tou (the)... theou (God) kai (and) soteros (Savior)... Iesou Christou (Jesus Christ). We have two nouns with the first having the definite article "the", the second one lacking it, and the word "and" (kai) in the middle. The rule, again, says that "God and Savior" or fully "our great God and Savior" as a whole refers to the same person, "Christ Jesus".

Not only is there nothing in the context that would make us think this is an exception to Granville Sharp's rule, but there are actually contextual indicators that demonstrate even more that the rule holds perfectly in this verse. The word for "appearing", the Greek epiphaneian, has its usage in the New Testament only in relation to Jesus Christ -to His coming appearing. Paul openly believed and expressed that Jesus is our "great God and Savior".

Some might say, "But there are always exceptions to language rules." Yes, it is true. There usually are exceptions to every rule. But if one goes through the writings of Paul and Peter, who both employ the Granville Sharp construction, you will see that no such exception exists. For there to be a clear exception there would have to be something in the immediate context that demonstrates why following the rule would either make no sense or completely go against the grain of the context. No such exception is found! The Granville Sharp rule holds. Again, the reason why the NWT neglects this rule in certain situations seems fairly obvious -the translators already had it set in their minds that Jesus cannot be God... "our God and Savior, Jesus Christ" (2 Pet 1:1). So, they derived an exception to the rule from their theological precommitments, not from the text of Scripture.

The [Other] Texts

The texts we will look at here all have one thing in common. In the NWT, they all have the word "other" or "others" inserted into the English. As we will see, there is no reason that concerns English fluency behind it. The insertion of the word dramatically changes the meaning of the verse away from the original text and toward the theological beliefs of the NWT translators and Jehovah's Witnesses in general. There are three texts we will examine, and I believe it will be obvious what the intent of the NWT translators in inserting these words was. It is important to recognize a theme in this mis-translations. These are not just "errors" or "differences of opinion" or even poor choices of words. These are regular, numerous alterings to the clear English translation in order to deny a single conclusion. It will be clear to see what that single conclusion is, just as it was with the Granville Sharp texts we just examined.

The first verse we will look at is Acts 10:36. In the NWT the text reads:

"He sent out the word to the sons of Israel to declare to them the good news of peace through Jesus Christ: this One is Lord of all [others]." (Acts 10:36 NWT)

Like with the insertion of the word "the" in the Granville Sharp cases, here is a bracketed word that is admittedly not found in the original language. Their own Kingdom Interlinear Translation (KIT) bears witness to this fact. Immediately ask yourself the difference between saying that "Jesus is the Lord of all" and "Jesus is the Lord of all others". Can you see it? If Jesus is the Lord of all, then that is something that belongs to God only. If Jesus is the Lord of all others, then Jesus is the Lord of all creation, but God, the true Lord of all, is still Lord of Jesus. The insertion of the word others demotes Jesus to being an exalted creature, a created thing that is given lordship over all other created things, but certainly not Lord of all -for only God is Lord of all. It places Jesus above other things, but still among them and the same as them, by nature, but below God. This is what the Jehovah's Witnesses teach, but it is not what the text says.

Here is an example that demonstrates the difference:

Sue is at the farm among many pigs.
Sue is at the farm among many other pigs.

In the first sentence, your impression of Sue is perhaps that she is a hired-hand, some kind of farm worker, or possibly another animal. She is distinguished, though not explicitly, from the "many pigs" she is among. However, in the second sentence, Sue is one pig among many others. Maybe there is something special about her that has not been made known yet, but the presence of the word "other" still makes Sue a pig. It is the same thing in this text with Jesus and with the remainder of the similar contexts that insert this word "other". The difference in meaning is clear, and if the the word "others" is not in the original Biblical text, then it begs the question as to why one would put it in. Since the Jehovah's Witnesses (and hence the NWT translators) reject the Deity of Christ and believe Jesus was an exalted creature, the first one created, you can see why they may want to get around the clear implication of the text and insert a word that does not belong.

The next text we will examine is Philppians 2:9. The NWT reads:

"For this very reason also God exalted him to a superior position and kindly gave him the name that is above every [other] name, " (Phil 2:9 NWT)

This is another example of the same thing. There is a personal distinction between God (who is God the Father, as shown in v.11) and Jesus, and since the translators of the NWT deny the tri-unity of God, that there is One Being consisting of three Persons, the translators inserted the word "other". If Jesus has a name above every name, then, again, that is something that belongs to God alone. That is a position of glory that belongs to no creature.

The Psalmist wrote of the name of the LORD, YHWH (or "Jehovah"):

"Let them praise the name of the LORD, For His name alone is exalted; His glory is above earth and heaven." (Ps 148:13, emphasis mine)

Yet, if we accept the NWT and Jesus has been given a name that is above every other name, then Jesus is still less than God, a mere exalted creature. There is still God's name that is excluded and high above the name of Jesus. Jesus, at best, would have a name that is below God's but above all other created things. So, you can see that the insertion of the word "other" drastically changes the impression the text gives about the status and nature of Christ. The 1985 version of the Watchtower's Kingdom Interlinear Translation (KIT) shows the word "other" in brackets, indicating that it is not found in the original Greek. However, in the 1969 version of the KIT it was not in brackets. If we leave the text alone, we are left with a very powerful truth. Paul is not calling us into idolatry by exalting the name of Jesus above every name. Paul is saying that Jesus is Jehovah, Jehovah the Son. He shares the very name of YHWH which "alone is exalted" (Ps 148:13).

The last text we will look at involves repeated insertions of the word "other". It is Col 1:15-17. The NWT reads:

15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; 16 because by means of him all [other] things were created in the heavens and upon the earth, the things visible and the things invisible, no matter whether they are thrones or lordships or governments or authorities. All [other] things have been created through him and for him. 17 Also, he is before all [other] things and by means of him all [other] things were made to exist, (Col 1:15-17)

Since this passage is so jam-packed, it may be useful to look at what the verse is saying as a whole before looking at what the NWT translators are trying to make it say by inserting the word "other" a total of four times.

The passage begins by quickly asserting that Jesus is the "image" of the invisible God. The word for "image", the Greek eikon, implies more than likeness. Vincent's Word Studies says, "Image is more than likeness, which may be superficial and incidental. It implies a prototype, and embodies the essential verity of its prototype." There are other verses which exemplify the same truth that Jesus is the revelation of the Father (see John 1:18). This corresponds to why John (John 12:41) explains Isaiah's vision of Jehovah (Isaiah 6) as a vision of Jesus.

Next we come to the phrase that identifies Jesus as the "firstborn of all creation". Some English translations say "over all creation", and I believe the context supports this. The term "firstborn" is the Greek word prototokos. Jehovah's Witness theology understands Jesus as being the first-created being. So, their understanding of prototokos falls in line with this: literally understanding it to mean that Jesus is the "first thing created" of all other created things. But the Bible's own understanding of the title "firstborn" has nothing to do with cronology or with when one was created or born. It is a title that speaks of preeminence. The heir of a large estate is the firstborn, for example. It is a title of estate, of honor and prestige, not a title having to do with when one came into being (see Exodus 4:22 and Psalm 89:27 which use this same Greek term in the Septuagint). The title was used, for example, for Israel, who was not the first nation but the preeminent one, the first-rank one. So for Jesus to be the prototokos of all creation is for Jesus to be the heir, the preeminent one, the master of all creation. It is, therefore, not twisting the text at all if we wish to use "over" instead of "of", since the fact that Jesus is the exact image of God and the preeminent one certainly places Him over all creation. The verses that follow only emphasize this point even more, if we take them for what they say without inserting words that alter the meaning.

The next verse tells us that by Him (Jesus) "all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities--all things have been created through Him and for Him. " (NASB) The NWT doesn't essentially differ from the NASB at all except for that one word "other", which is not found in the original language. The only other thing that might be misleading is how the NWT translates the Greek proposition en as "by means of" rather than simply "by". In this verse Paul expresses Jesus' role in Creation, a role that belongs to God alone. He places literally everything under Jesus and puts Jesus in the role of Creator. What the NWT translators attempted to do by inserting "other" before "things were created" is again place Jesus among created things. He is, to them, an exalted creation, but a creation among all of God's creations, nonetheless. It should be noted that the original text does not contain the inserted word, and it does not contain the idea, either.

The same thing happens in the sentence that follows, "all things have been created through Him and for Him". As we see in the citation from the NWT a few paragraphs above, the word "other" is again inserted before "things" so as to demonstrate that Jesus is a created thing among others, and therefore His role in creation is secondary, in that He is also a creation, albeit the first one (in the minds of the NWT translators). With the word "other" missing, we are left with the intended understanding from the apostle Paul that Jesus is preeminent over all creation, is the heir of all things, and exists outside of creation. He is not a created thing. The word "other" seeks to place Jesus among creation while its absence in the original text, and the context with it, clearly place Him outside of it.

The next verse only repeats the same idea, which the NWT seeks to obscure by again placing "other" in the text and thereby asserting Jesus' creatureliness rather than Creatorship. With the original text and without the inserted word, the text reads "He is before all things, and in/by Him all things hold together". The preposition en is used again, which was previously translated "by" but could also be translated "in". The last word translated "hold together" means "consist" or "are put together". Compare this with Paul's speech to the Greek philosophers in Acts 17:23-28 when he says of God, "in Him we live and move and exist". The same manner of thing is now applied to Jesus. The sense is unmistakable -Paul even more clearly places Jesus above, before, and outside of all of creation, even being the Creator Himself, which includes things such as angels as well. Yet the NWT refuses this by inserting a word -changing the meaning of the whole text in an attempt to deny this conclusion.

There is a lot here, and I hope that even if you disagree you will look over these things. What we see here is a consistent mis-translation of the text of Scripture to avoid a certain conclusion that, by itself, flows from the text if the text is left unaltered and translated consistently and honestly. It is not a random mistake here or there. These alterations are repeated and consistent and deal with the same subject matter. They all seek to obscure one fact -the Deity of Christ. So, it is not as simple as saying the translation has some problems or phrased things badly or made some mistakes. These were obviously intentional decisions. There are too many of them focused around the same issue to ignore. The ordinary rules the NWT translators used in translating other portions of the NWT went completely out the window when confronted with these texts (and others like them not mentioned in this brief study). If we are familiar with and comfortable with using the NWT, I hope this will at least be a beginning for you in explaining why the NWT is a deadly translation. For to fudge on translating on a matter such as ecclesiology may be one thing, and a bad thing at that, but to consistently deny the clear text of Scripture and then produce a translation that hides the Scriptural teaching of the Deity of Christ is absolutely blasphemous and idolatrous. And if we are complicit in this, since we now have this knowledge, by continuing to use this translation and reject the truth of Scripture, then we are engaging in idolatry of the truest and most direct kind. We are denying Jehovah Himself and placing a god of our own mind's creation in His place. Above all, I hope that this brief study may be a beginning in introducing you to the true God and Savior, Jesus Christ, God the Son in human flesh, if He was previously unknown to you in this way.

1 comment:

Jeff said...

Great stuff!