The "NEW WORLD TRANSLATION" –
Scholarly and Honest?

B J Kotwall

(Investigator 19, 1991 July)


Recently a Jehovah's Witness (JW) and I were discussing the NWT's translation of John 1:1 which I was trying to point out to the JW was incorrect. The JW promptly thrust THE WATCHTOWER of March 1, 1991 into my hands and told me to read for myself how correct the WATCHTOWER SOCIETY is in translating the verse accurately and how scholarly the NWT is.

I read the article (pages 26-30) thoroughly. The article is titled THE NEW WORLD TRANSLATION – SCHOLARLY AND HONEST.

The article is deceptive, self-praising, and even dishonest.

Let us start with the title. Obviously a self-praise, as no recognized New Testament (NT) or Old Testament (OT) scholar would say that the NWT is scholarly or honest. In fact the NWT has been roundly condemned by many renowned scholars. Let's see what one NT and one OT scholar have to say about the NWT.

This is what a recognized NT scholar has to say:

NEW WORLD TRANSLATION OP 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 nor scholarly. And interwoven throughout its fabric is inconsistent application of its own principles enunciated in the Foreward and the Appendix… Biased and manipulative foundation. From a purely literary viewpoint NWT suffers from woodenness of style that makes sustained reading of it a chore. (The Jehovah's Witnesses' NT.  Dr. Robert H. Countess, p. 93)


And this is what a renowned OT scholar has to say about the NWT of the Hebrew Scriptures:

The translators have their own views on Hebrew tenses, but prefer to offer them to the uninstructed readers before submitting their justification of them to the scrutiny of scholars. This is probably wise. They profess to offer a rendering into modern English which is as faithful as possible. In fact the jargon which they use is often scarcely English at all... The translation is marked by a wooden literalism which will only exasperate any intelligent reader – if such it finds – and instead of showing reverence for the Bible it is an insult to the Word of God… From the beginning to end this volume is a shining example of how the Bible should not be translated, and a reminder that the Bible is great literature, which deserves to be translated by those who have a feeling for style…
(How Not To Translate The Bible. The Expository Times, November 1953 pp. 41-42. The Christian Century October 5, 1955, October 3 1953. Dr. H. N. Rowley.)


In the WATCHTOWER article two writers are quoted, with approval, who appear to support the NWT. The first is a theologian – C. Houtman. No information is provided regarding the theologian's religious affiliation, qualifications or the source from which the quoted sentence is derived. Such lack of information makes it difficult for readers to check up what the complete write-up says. Houtman's quote reads:

Various traditional translations of important terms from the original text have been discarded apparently in order to arrive at the best possible understanding.


JW publications sometimes cite Professor George Howard (J. of Biblical Literature, Volume 96, 1977) in a way that makes it seem that he agrees with the introduction of the Tetragrammaton (YHWH) into the New Testament. For example see:

Professor Howard's original article and the two letters reproduced below are clear that what be wrote was a "theory".

His theory is that the writers of the New Testament retained the Tetragrammaton whenever they quoted extracts from the Old Testament that contained it. This theory applies to references in the NT from the OT. It has no relevance to most of the 237 instances where the JW translators inserted "Jehovah" into their NT.
 

 
The University of Georgia
College of Arts & Sciences

June 5, 1989

Bob Hathaway
Capistrano Beach, CA 92624

Dear Mr. Hathaway:

My conclusions regarding the Tatragrammaton and the New Testament are:

1) the N.T. writers might have used the Tetragrammaton in their Old Testament quotations, and 2) it is possible (though less likely) that the Tetragrammaton was used in a few stereotype phrases such as "the angel of the Lord." Otherwise it probably was not used at all. I disagree with the Jehovah Witness translation that uses Jehovah many times. This goes beyond the evidence. I do not believe Jesus Christ is Jehovah. If the Jehovah Witnesses teach this (I'm not aware of most of their theology) they are off the mark.

Sincerely,

George Howard
Professor
 


 

The University of Georgia
January 9, 1990

Steven Butt
P.O. _____
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.

Sincerely,
George Howard
 


The second "scholar" quoted is one "Prof. Benjamin Kedar of Israel". Again no further information on the writer or his write-up is provided.

The quote reads in part:

In my linguistic research in connection with the Hebrew Bible and translations, I often refer to the English edition of what is known as the New World Translation… But I have never discovered in the New World Translation any biased intent to read something into the text that it does not contain.


Note that this professor's opinion sharply contrasts with that of Dr. Rowley's (above) who is considered one of the foremost authorities on the OT in the world today.

Some German translators are named on p. 28 who have apparently used the "a god" translation in John 1:1, and who have used the word "Jehovah" in the text of the NT. (We are not told how many times the word "Jehovah" is used in the texts by the German translators.) Without any information on these translators no comments can be made.

On top of p. 29, in a box, Habakkuk 1:12 "O my God, my Holy One, you do not die" is quoted from the NWT as a radical and accurate translation. The article says: "The New World Translation has restored the original text." This is of course nonsense. Many modern versions of the Bible have the verse translated in like manner.

To discuss all the other examples from the NWT given in the article is superfluous. Suffice it to say that their translation of, for example, Matthew 26:26 and John 1:1 and the completely unjustifiable insertion of "Jehovah" into the NT not only "depart from the traditional renderings" but were made because of doctrinal considerations.

In conclusion it should be said that any encounter with the JWs should never be undertaken with only the deceptive NWT at hand.



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