The Jehovah’s Witnesses’ New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures – Part 4
|By: Dr. John Ankerberg, Dr. John Weldon; ©2005|
|How has the Watchtower Society’s New World Translation changed Acts 20:28, Hebrews 1:8, and Colossians 1:15-20 in order to avoid the conclusion Jesus is God? (NWT)|
The Jehovah’s Witnesses’ New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures
Examples of Mistranslation—continued
In the following material we have utilized the Watchtower Society’s New World Translation [NWT] 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.
In the 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.
6. Acts 20:28
[The phrase “with his own blood” is translated as “the blood of his own (Son),” to circumvent Christ’s deity.]
- Pay attention to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the holy spirit has appointed you overseers, to shepherd the congregation of God, which he purchased with THE BLOOD OF HIS OWN (SON). NWT
- Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God, which He purchased with His own blood. NAS
The NWT interlinear appendix justifying this translation (pp. 1160-61) refers to a few manuscripts using “Lord” (i.e., supposedly Jesus) instead of God and mentions “troublesome Greek words.” It can offer this translation only by unnaturally translating the Greek and concludes, “The entire expression could therefore be translated ‘with the blood of his own.’”
Nigel Turner, an authority who wrote the volume on Greek syntax in Moulton’s three volume Grammar of New Testament Greek, explains why the Witnesses are wrong at this point:
- The dying proto-martyr, St. Stephen, addressed Jesus as if he were God. A pious Hellenistic Jew would not pray at one less than God. It may not be so generally appreciated that St. Paul slipped naturally and casually into the affirmation that he who shed his blood upon the cross was God. The reference is to Acts 20:28, where St. Paul at Miletus spoke to the Christian elders about “the church of God which he bought for himself by his own blood.” The blood of God! Some aberrant manuscripts have the inoffensive reading, “the church of the Lord”—implying the Lord Jesus. But they must be rejected on the ground that the more startling or difficult reading is the one likely to be correct; scribes would not invent a conception of such unexpected originality as “the blood of God.” We are left with the original and plain statement of St. Paul that Jesus is God, and it worries those scholars who think that it represents a Christology grammatical expedient whereby “his own” is understood as a noun (“his own One”), rather than a possessive adjective. In consequence, standing as it does in the genitive case, one may place before it the word “of”: i.e., “of his Own.” The expedient lowers the Christology drastically and reduces St. Paul’s affirmation to something like this: “the church of God which he bought for himself by the blood of his Own”—as in the margin of the NEB. It is a theological expedient, foisting imaginary distinctions into a spontaneous affirmation, and is not the natural way to take the Greek. It is unlikely to have been the meaning envisaged either by St. Paul or the writer of the narrative. The easy thing would be for them to add the word “Son,” if that was intended.
Even the Kingdom Interlinear appendix itself admits:
- …grammatically, this passage could be translated, as in the King James Version and Douay Version, “with his own blood.” In such case the verse would be saying that God purchased his congregation with his own blood. That has been a difficult thought with many… the ordinary translation would mean to say “God’s blood.”
Nevertheless, the more accurate and natural translation is rejected since it cannot be true according to Watchtower theology, which denies the deity of Jesus Christ.
7. Hebrews 1:8
[“Thy throne O God” is translated “God is your throne” in order to circumvent Christ’s deity.]
- But with the reference to the Son: “GOD IS YOUR THRONE forever, and (the) scepter of your kingdom is the scepter of uprightness.” NWT
- But of the Son He says, “Thy throne, O God, is forever and ever, and the righteous scepter is the scepter of His kingdom.” NAS
Nigel Turner again comments:
- Happily in Heb. 1:8 the NEB (New English Bible) no longer hesitates to accept in its text the statement that Jesus is God. “Thy throne, Oh God, is for ever and ever.” It consigns to the margin the grotesque interpretation which obscures the godhead of Jesus (“God is thy throne for ever and ever”).
Thomas Hewitt states:
- Some commentators have taken “O God” to be nominative, either subject or predicate. If subject, the translation would be “God is thy throne for ever and ever.” If predicate “Thy throne is God,” or “The foundation of thy throne is God.” Such translations sound very strange and have no parallel elsewhere. The AV, RV and RSV rightly support the vocative and translate “Thy throne, O God”…. The Son, on the contrary, is addressed by the Father not as a messenger but as God, who occupies an eternal throne, and as Sovereign, who rules His Kingdom with righteousness.
Ryland’s Professor of Biblical Criticism and Exegesis at the University of Manchester, F.F. Bruce, declares that here the “Messiah can be addressed not merely as God’s Son (verse 5) but actually as God….” Verse 10 corroborates this.
8. Colossians 1:15-20
[This verse inserts the word “other” in parenthesis in order to deny the eternal existence of Christ.
- He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; 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. Also, he is before all (OTHER) things and by means of him all (OTHER) things were made to exist, and he is the head of the body, the congregation. He is the beginning, the first-born from the dead, that he might become the one who is first-born from the dead, that he might become the one who is first in all things; because (God) saw good for all fullness to dwell in him, and through him to reconcile again to himself all (OTHER) things by making peace through the blood (he shed) on the torture stake, no matter whether they are the things upon the earth or the things in heaven. NWT
- And He is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of all creation. For by him 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 by Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the first-born from the dead; so that He Himself might come to have first place in everything. For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven. NAS
In this passage the NWT adds five words not present in the Greek text, again, in order to deny Christ’s deity. In Colossians 1:16, 17, 20 the term “other” is inserted in brackets five times. This is done in order to imply the meaning of the passage is that Christ Himself is not the Creator. We grant that a translator may insert a word in italics or brackets if it is necessary to accurately express the thought of the original. But even a cursory reading of the context will show that Christ is the Creator. Their own interlinear is again embarrassing (p. 896) for it proves the word “other” is not in the Greek. Yet this did not prevent earlier editions of the New World Translation from using “other” without brackets, implying it was part of the Greek (see the 1950, 1953 eds.). And even the 1965 edition of Make Sure of All things Hold Fast to What is Fine quotes Colossians 1:15-18 as if “other” were part of the original Greek. No parenthesis brackets are present: “because by means of him all OTHER things were created…. All OTHER things have been created through him and for him.”
In addition, modern versions of the NWT insert the word “other” in Philippians 2:9, again changing the meaning (i.e., “the name above every OTHER name”) and again without brackets or italics, implying it is in the original when, in fact, it is not, as their own interlinear once again demonstrates.
Jehovah’s Witnesses’ objectivity cannot become more questionable than through examples of this type, where one adds to the divine text what is simply not present in order to deny what is clearly taught. Nevertheless, the Witnesses have somehow overlooked John 1:3 (which the NWT translates correctly) and which clearly declares the doctrine of Christ’s deity which they spuriously removed from Colossians: that if Christ is the Creator of all things, He Himself must be uncreated.
- All things came into existence through him, and apart from him not even one thing came into existence. NWT
While on the subject of Christ as Creator, Jehovah’s Witnesses refer to the word prototokos (“first-born” in Col. 1:15) as alleged evidence of Christ being “created.” However, the word means priority and sovereignty over creation, as the context reveals. Bruce Metzger observes:
- Here he is spoken of as “the first begotten of all creation,” which is something quite different from saying that he was made or created. If Paul had wished to express the latter idea, he had available a Greek word to do so, the word protoktistos, meaning “first created.” Actually, however, Paul uses the prototokes, meaning “first begotten,” which signifies something quite different, as the following explanation by a modern lay theologian makes clear:
- “One of the creeds says that Christ is the Son of God “begotten, not created” and it adds “begotten by his Father before all worlds.” Will you please get it quite clear that this has nothing to do with the fact that when Christ was born on earth as a man, that man was the son of a virgin? We are not now thinking about the Virgin Birth. We’re thinking about something that happened before Nature was created at all, before time began. “Before all worlds” Christ is begotten, not created. What does it mean?
- We don’t use the words begetting or begotten much in modern English, but everyone still knows what they mean. To beget is to become the father of: to create is to make. And the difference is just this. When you beget, you beget something of the same kind as yourself. A man begets human babies, a beaver begets little beavers, and a bird begets eggs which turn into little birds. But when you make, you make something of a different kind from yourself. A bird makes a nest, a beaver builds a dam, a man makes a wireless set…. Now that’s the first thing to get clear.
- What God begets is God; just as what man begets is man. What God creates is not God; just as what man makes is not man.”
- To return now to Col. 1:15 where Paul speaks of Christ as “the first begotten of all creation,” it is important to observe that the adjective “first” refers both to rank as well as time. In other words, the Apostle alludes here not only to Christ’s priority to all creation, but also to his sovereignty over all creation.
One can also mention other Scriptures. In Psalms 89:27 “first born” clearly means preeminence. In Jeremiah 31:9 Ephraim is the “first-born” although Manasseh was literally born first, hence “first born” must refer to rank or preeminence.
- The Kingdom Interlinear Translation of the Greek Scriptures, p. 1160.
- Nigel Turner, Grammatical Insights into the New Testament (Edinburgh: T. and T. Clarke, 1965), pp. 14-15.
- The Kingdom Interlinear Translation of the Greek Scriptures, p. 1160.
- Turner, p. 15.
- Thomas Hewitt, in the Tyndale’s New Testament Commentary Series, The Epistle to the Hebrews (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1973), pp. 56-57.
- F. F. Bruce, The Epistle to the Hebrews in The New International Commentary of the New Testa- ment (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1973), p. 20.
- Make Sure of All Things Hold Fast to That Which is Fine (Brooklyn, NY: WBTS, 1965), p. 364.
- Bruce Metzger, “The Jehovah’s Witnesses and Jesus Christ,” rpt. of April 1953, Theology Today (Princeton, NJ: Theological Book Agency, 1953), p. 77; also Kenneth Wuest, Word Studies in the Greek New Testament, Vol. 2, “Hebrews” (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1971), p. 46.