Jehovah's Witnesses: Is the New World Translation really the MOST accurate English bible translation?
I don't normally do this - I have the utmost respect for Jehovah's Witnesses and their beliefs, and I have read a large portion of the New World Translation (well over half). I state here in advance that I sincerely apologize if anyone is offended by this question. It is NOT my intention to offend anyone.
In a recent question, one answerer claimed without reservation that the New World Translation (NWT) was the most accurate bible translation.
Now - I'm willing to concede Anglocentrism, and suppose that the writer of this claim was not thinking at all about foreign language bibles.
However, here is my question - in two parts.
1) Do you believe that the NWT is more accurate than any other English translation?
2) If so, WHY do you believe that the NWT is more accurate than **any other** English translation? That is, what evidence do you have supporting that the NWT is more accurate than all other English translations? I'm not talking about 8 other English translations of questionable repute - I'm talking about all of them.
I have some concluding questions as well:
3) Is it *right* to claim that the NWT is the most accurate English translation unless someone has evaluated the accuracy of the *entire* text of the NWT with the *entire* text of every single other English translation?
4) Has anyone at all evaluated the accuracy of the entire text of the NWT and compared it to an evaluation of the accuracy of the entire text of any other bible?
Maybe I'm wrong to let this "get my back up" so to speak - I guess it's because I'm trained as a scientist. When a claim is made, the claim should accurately reflect the meaning intended. The NWT with References has some very good features - I do not mean to discredit the NWT one iota. However, I have no faith in a claim such as this when it seems as if there is literally no evidence whatsoever to support the claim as stated.
I sincerely mean no offense!
Adam B: this is exactly the type of claim I was talking about. Please let me explain why I object.
I know of BeDuhn & "Truth in Translation". I have not read it, but I have read carefully the conclusion and how it was reached.
1) It compares only 9 bibles. There are literally dozens of English bibles in print. At best, DeBuhn could only support the claim that the NWT is more accurate than 8 other particular English bibles. Only 8.
2) It analyzes accuracy by comparing only particular New Testament verses that, in BeDuhn's opinion, are frequently poorly translated. In other words, it does not evaluate the accuracy of the entire NWT and compare that to an evaluation of any other entire bible. At best, DeBuhn could only support the claim that the NWT is more accurate than 8 other particular English bibles when comparing a very specific selection of verses.
My point: BeDuhn is very good evidence that certain verses of the NWT New Testament are, collectively, more accurately translated than the same verses in 8 other English bibles. BeDuhn is "circumstantial" evidence that the NWT is, as a whole, more accurately translated than those 8 bibles. BeDuhn in **no way** "supports the superior accuracy of the NWT over any other English text". That is, to be blunt, an unjustifiable claim - unjustifiable because the evidence in no way supports such a claim.
Rick G: Some good points - but these are, as we might say, threads of the cloth. Certainly consistent translation of words can be a huge advantage. I myself favor the New Jerusalem Bible (NJB) because it does things like transliterate "sheol" and "hades" and the tetragrammaton rather then attempting to provide a less-than-precise translation. But this also brings home my point: here we have the NJB (and the earlier Jerusalem Bible) showing this same consistency of translation in the very same particulars that you mention - and the NWT, JB and NJB are not alone in this (though nearly so). SO - has any biblical languages expert compared the accuracy of the NWT to the NJB?
BTW - it so happens that these are the sort of features that I find attractive in the NWT. But even the NJB - which I favor - I can say no more than, "In my opinion, it is the best English translation available today".
About bible words
- BAR- ANERGESLv 71 decade agoBest answer
This is a question that “hits close to home” for me. Almost 40 years ago I had serious doubts about the NWT even being a good translation. My parents had been baptized as Witnesses and at a very basic level I knew the Witnesses were truly Christian in contrast to other religions. But, when it came to the NWT I assumed that it was probably no better than any other and at worse as possibly being biased. I just had no idea. So, I determined to gain enough knowledge and reference books so that I could check any question. I began collecting original language reference works, commentaries and anything I could lay my hands on. I also began to read and examine other translations (I now have about 150 different versions). Over the years I took every criticism and accusation against the NWT and thoroughly examined it, recording my research at first in binders and then on the computer.
What I personally found over the years is that in every case where the NWT is criticized by so-called "scholars" it has usually proved to be accurate, and at the very least its rendering is solidly based on the laws of translation such as following the original grammar and word definitions. In almost all cases I found that the NWT was more accurate than the vast majority of other translations. *Most* criticisms brought against it are usually *unwarranted and unfairly biased. *
So what I can say is that from my learned experience, the New World Translation is one of the best translations in existence. At times I may even have stated that the NWT is the best translation period, although when people make such absolute statements we normally realize that we must add the words “in my opinion.”
I also identified with you when you said that you favored the NJB was your favorite because the JB was my favorite for a long time. However, I became very dissatisfied with it because of its inconsistency. It would paraphrase unexpectedly and so I found I couldn’t depend on it always being literal. I liked the NEB and still do but it had the same problem. I don’t have a single favorite now but I like and recommend the NAB, the ASV and of course the KJV is still a better translation than most modern versions, IMO ;).
Of course, all translation is interpretation. *Every* translation reflects the theological views of it's translators to one degree or the other. No translation is perfect and so each will have it's own 'faults', and this includes the NWT. Some are very good and some are very biased. As Edgar Goodspeed said in his preface to his translation, "It has been truly said that any translation of a masterpiece must be a failure. . ."
Translations can be good, they can be better than some others, they can perhaps be best in some or many aspects. But, no translation can make the claim of being the best in every way. Some translations are “the best” when it comes to comfortable or ease of reading. Others are very hard for many to read but are best because the do not lose details of the original words. The NWT is in the latter class. In my opinion, the only “valid” major criticism of the NWT is that it is not English or it’s a “wooden translation.” In this I have to agree, but I’ll take this over any other translation because it is the necessary result of a very literal translation. And if a person finds some wording hard to understand they can refer to a looser translation. Perhaps that is why we are encouraged to read and compare a variety of translations. And it is a fact that you cannot get the entire sense of some biblical texts without comparing several translations.
However, I have to say that your suggestion that we must compare EVERY single text of EVERY known translation before we see solid evidence of a superior translation is unscientific and unreasonable.
This is because science is largely based on Inductive logic because we make general statements and conclusions on the basis of a finite number of particular observations. Yet, we do see scientists making dogmatic statements based solely on inductive observation and nobody challenges them. Induction requires 'inventing', in a reasonable way, a conclusion on the basis of necessarily limited evidence and this reasoning is characteristic of science. That is what BeDuhn or any other translation comparison has done. While they all have their problem and limitations (especially since all must use their own opinion of criteria/verses to judge) this is a valid way to draw a conclusion on the “best” translation.
I have a few simple verses I use to quickly determine how good a translation may be. One is I check to see how the word EPIGNOSIS is translated at Rom.1:2. I want a literal translation that gives me the details so I want to see a difference between GNOSIS (knowledge: KJV) and EPIGNOSIS (accurate knowledge: NWT). If a version does not give me the particular nuance of the original prefix by using adjectives such as true, full, complete, higher, or correct then I inductively conclude it is not good for *my* use (incidentally the NJB paraphrases (again) using the word “misguided.”
Another quick test I look for is how the present active infinitive AMARTANEIN at 1John 3:9 is rendered; is it “does not sin” (KJV) or “does not practice sin” (NWT)?
Robertson, who in his Word Pictures, explains it as follows: "Doeth no sin ([amartian ou poiei]). Linear present active indicative as in verse 4 like [amartanei] in verse 8. The child of God does not have the habit of sin.
This is also important because giving the wrong translation can cause a contradiction in the Bible since John already has made it clear that Christians can sin (2:1).
I have more and I apply them as needed to evaluate a translation. Obviously, the more specific criteria you use and the more universally they are agreed upon by scholars the more accurate your conclusion will be. But in reality we do not need to be so precise, since correct doctrine does not depend on finding the *absolutely* BEST translation in existence. In fact Christ and the apostles use what many consider a poor translation in the LXX!
So to conclude this somewhat rambling answer, I would say no you don’t have to “get your dander up” whenever someone makes an overly dogmatic statement, nor do you have to go crazy trying to find the perfect translation. Do it as a recreation or as an extra way to determine the correct beliefs, but it’s not really a vitally necessary thing.
Hope that helps,
PS; Don't mean to dis the NJB, just giving my 2 cents. It is still a good translation and has fantastic footnotes.
I am never disappointed; someone always does a "cut and paste" of examples where some obviously biased individual *claims* that the NWT is inaccurately translated without doing even the slightest research to educate themselves.
- CarlyLv 44 years ago
NO it is not even considered a real bible it is a cult document. Bad Translations of the Jehovah's Witness Bible, the New World Translation (NWT). 1. Gen. 1:1-2 - "In [the] beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth proved to be formless and waste and there was darkness upon the surface of [the] watery deep; and God's active force was moving to and fro over the surface of the waters," (New World Translation, emphasis added). 1. The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society denies that the Holy Spirit is alive, the third person of the Trinity. Therefore, they have changed the correct translation of "...the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters," to say "...and God's active force was moving to and fro over the surface of the waters." 2. Zech. 12:10 - In this verse God is speaking and says, "And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication. They will look on me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstborn son" (Zech. 12:10, NASB). 1. The Jehovah's Witnesses change the word "me" to "the one" so that it says in their Bible, "...they will look upon the one whom they have pierced..." Since the Jehovah's Witnesses deny that Jesus is God in flesh, then Zech. 12:10 would present obvious problems--so they changed it. 3. John 1:1 - They mistranslate the verse as "a god." Again it is because they deny who Jesus is and must change the Bible to make it agree with their theology. The Jehovah's Witness version is this: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was a god." 4. Col. 1:15-17 - The word "other" is inserted 4 times. It is not in the original Greek, nor is it implied. This is a section where Jesus is described as being the creator of all things. Since the Jehovah's Witness organization believes that Jesus is created, they have inserted the word "other" to show that Jesus was before all "other" things, implying that He is created. 1. There are two Greek words for "other": heteros, and allos. The first means another of a different kind, and the second means another of the same kind. Neither is used at all in this section of scripture. The Jehovah's Witness have changed the Bible to make it fit their aberrant theology. 5. Heb. 1:6 - In this verse they translate the Greek word for worship, proskuneo, as "obeisance." Obeisance is a word that means to honor, show respect, even bow down before someone. Since Jesus, to them, is created, then he cannot be worshiped. They have also done this in other verses concerning Jesus, i.e., Matt. 2:2,11; 14:33; 28:9. 6. Heb. 1:8 - This is a verse where God the Father is calling Jesus God: "But about the Son he says, 'Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever, and righteousness will be the scepter of your kingdom.'" Since the Jehovah's Witnesses don't agree with that they have changed the Bible, yet again, to agree with their theology. They have translated the verse as "...God is your throne..." The problem with the Jehovah's Witness translation is that this verse is a quote from Psalm 45:6 which, from the Hebrew, can only be translated as "...Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever; a scepter of justice will be the scepter of your kingdom." To justify their New Testament translation they actually changed the OT verse to agree with their theology, too! The NWT translation is not a good translation. It has changed the text to suit its own theological bias in many places.
- 5 years ago
It is the most accurate bible in the world. It is the only bible on earth that has God's name in all of its proper locations. If anyone say it is not the most accurate they are just being bias and have done NO research! I know because I am a teacher.
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- puppy warm-heartLv 61 decade ago
Sir I would love to answer your question and the truth is Jehovah's Witnesses are encouraged to become familiar with all translations of the bible, not just the NWT. I regularly cross reference and have never been told not to by any of my elders. I have found the very best source when I have questions about the NWT is in the introduction, at the very front of the reference bible. There you will find a very extensive list of the different texts that were used. You will notice from the sheer number that there are a lot of versions and translations.
- Rick GLv 71 decade ago
Since I am not even sure if I qualify to determine if something was best or not, but I do know it is a very consistence translation. An example to compare the sheol in the Hebrew, or hades in the Greek. Here is the Appendix 4B from the NWT.
4B “Sheol,” “Hades”—The Common Grave of Mankind; Gravedom
Heb., שאול (she’ohl′); Gr., ᾅδης (hai′des); Lat., in‧fer′nus; Syr., shiul
The Sixty-Six Occurrences of Sheol
“Sheol” occurs 66 times in the New World Translation of the Hebrew Scriptures, namely, in Ge 37:35; 42:38; 44:29, 31; Nu 16:30, 33; De 32:22; 1Sa 2:6; 2Sa 22:6; 1Ki 2:6, 9; Job 7:9; 11:8; 14:13; 17:13, 16; 21:13; 24:19; 26:6; Ps 6:5; 9:17; 16:10; 18:5; 30:3; 31:17; 49:14, 14, 15; 55:15; 86:13; 88:3; 89:48; 116:3; 139:8; 141:7; Pr 1:12; 5:5; 7:27; 9:18; 15:11, 24; 23:14; 27:20; 30:16; Ec 9:10; Ca 8:6; Isa 5:14; [7:11]; 14:9, 11, 15; 28:15, 18; 38:10, 18; 57:9; Eze 31:15, 16, 17; 32:21, 27; Ho 13:14, 14; Am 9:2; Jon 2:2; Hab 2:5.
The occurrences of “Sheol” in the Hebrew Scriptures cover the 65 times it occurs in M, and one instance in Isa 7:11, where see ftn. In all cases the New World Translation uses “Sheol” for the Hebrew word she’ohl′. The Greek Septuagint generally renders she’ohl′ as hai′des.
The derivation of the Hebrew word she’ohl′ is uncertain. According to one derivation, it means the “place of inquiry”; according to another, the “hollow place” or “resting-place”; according to still another, “the place that asks for and demands all without distinction of persons.” It is in the earth and is always associated with the dead, and plainly means the common grave of mankind, gravedom, or the earthly (not sea) region of the dead. In contrast, the Hebrew word qe′ver means an individual grave or burial place.—Ge 23:4, 6, 9, 20.
The Ten Occurrences of Hades
“Hades,” perhaps meaning “the unseen place,” occurs ten times in the New World Translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures, namely, in Mt 11:23; 16:18; Lu 10:15; 16:23; Ac 2:27, 31; Re 1:18; 6:8; 20:13, 14.
In Ac 2:27, Peter’s quotation of Ps 16:10 shows Hades is the equivalent of Sheol and is applied to the common grave of mankind (in contrast with the Greek word ta′phos, an individual grave). The Latin word corresponding to Hades is in‧fer′nus (sometimes in′fe‧rus). It means “that which lies beneath; the lower region,” and well applies to the grave. It is thus a fitting approximation of the Greek and Hebrew terms.
In the inspired Scriptures these words are associated with death and the dead, not with life and the living. (Re 20:13) In themselves the words “Sheol” and “Hades” contain no thought or hint of pleasure or pain.
__________ end of quote.
As with any translation, it is A TRANSLATION, and is not as good as being to read it in the original languages. (And with any ancient language YOUR understanding of it is based on what YOU have been taught the words means. Unlike your current living language, there are just some phrases and words that lost in the stream of time.) And as the translators learn more about the meaning of words they update their translation. This the 1984 edition did. Since any translation is dependent of growing knowledge, none can ever claim to be the best, just the best as we have at the moment.
One issue many take up with the NWT is that it uses the Divine Name, and even into the Greek scriptures. As translators, those of the NWT have been consistent.
For me, the other translators that decide that IT should not be used, have already corrupted any claim to being the "best" translation.
- Sherry BLv 51 decade ago
In one respect the NWT is the most accurate. It is the only translation (English translation) that I know of that translates the tetragrammaton as Jehovah in all the instances where it occurs. I would also accept "Yahweh" if such were used in other translations. I do not consider removing God's name and replacing it with "God" or "Lord" as accurate.
Translations fall between the very accurate and literal to the very conversational. The NWT falls somewhere in the middle of this scale. It tends to be more to the "accurate" end of the scale and less to the "conversational" end.
You can get more accurate by using an interlinear translation, but it is not very readable or understandable in English. I HAVE checked interlinear translations when there was a question about how the NWT translates a text. In the instances that I have checked, the NWT has come out as accurate as to meaning. Some words I have liked better in other translations. For instance I saw how "The Bible.--An American Translation" translates the Greek word "Aeon" as "Age" whereas the NWT translates it as "System of thing". In the parable about the weeds sown among the wheat when the Bible says the "harvest is the end of the aeon". I like "Age" because it is very clear that the Greek word referred to a time period was coming to an end. The "system of things" doesn't quite have the same flavor, but has in general the same meaning.
Whereas the King James says "the end of the world". Which I DON'T like at all. In some ways it has the same meaning, but people can easily misunderstand what that means. And I have had someone (who did misunderstand it) tell me that this meant the world itself wouldn't be here any longer. this same scripture translates the word "kosmos" as "world" so to translate both words using the same English word is misleading.
Anyway no, I wouldn't say that the NWT was the MOST accurate. I'm sure it is one of the most accurate and yet also easly read, easily understood translations. I've never seen it mislead by mis translating any words. (not true of other translations) but I do believe that there are times when the word choice could have been slightly better. Which is why we have the reference Bible which has some footnotes that clarify and make more understandable what the original word may have meant in cases where one word doesn't accurately convey the shades of meaning of a word.
I think with the reference Bible you get a pretty accurate picture AND all the "flavor" of the original languages. But this is my opinion. I cannot read the original languages I can only rely on reference sources and Bible dictionaries, Strong's concordance ant the like. These help of course, but they aren't the same as reading in the original tongue.
- Adam BLv 41 decade ago
Yep, most accurate. Look up Truth in Translation. A non JW witness book that supports the superior accuracy of the NWT over any other English text.
Jim by needing it proved to the level you are talking about you will never be satisfied. That is proof enough to me that it is a fine translation and since as JW's are willing to use most any decent modern english translation the point is really moot anyway.
- 1 decade ago
To my knowledge, no JW publication has ever claimed that the NWT is the "most accurate English translation." The closest I have heard to that was in a talk giving by a member of the Governing Body of Jehovah's Witnesses. He is a new member and is too young to have had anything to do with the translating of the NWT (He wasn't even baptized until the 70's). But he said that he had read the Bible several times over, that he had read several different translations from cover to cover. He also said that he knows Koine Greek (he said nothing of Hebrew). He said that, in his OPINION, that the NWT "is the finest translation on the planet."
Personally, I haven't compared the text of the NWT against every English translation. But what I have noticed - when looking at non-controversial verses, I might add - is that the NWT does a better job than any other translation that I've seen at bringing out the subtleties of the aspects of the Greek verbs. Many people have criticized the NWT for being too woodenly literal - the English is awkward at times. But this is because of the greater accuracy of bringing out the sense of the Greek. (I have not worked with the Hebrew, I speak only of the Greek Scriptures.)
I have read BeDuhn's book, Truth In Translation. He said that the purpose of his book was to inform the Bible reading public about the accuracy of the most popular translations out there. His purpose was not to pick out the best translation of all time. Therefore, he picked nine of the most popular translations in America. He specifically stated that we was going to review verses that have been controversial, for one reason or another. This is because it is in the most controversial areas that a translator's bias is most likely to come out. At the end of his book, BeDuhn said that the most accurate of the nine translations in the verses looked at was the NWT. He didn't say it was the most accurate Bible translation ever into English.
I too love the New Jerusalem Bible. I will give it a quick "BeDuhn" test, and rate the NJB according to BeDuhn's opinion, against the NWT.
Hebrews 1:6 - NJB/pass ;NWT/pass
Philippians 2:6 - NJB/fail ;NWT/pass (NJB inaccurately translates the explicit Greek "harpazo" as an ambiguous English "grasp.")
Colossians 1:15-20 - NJB/pass; NWT/pass (BeDuhn's point was that ALL translations "add" words in this passage, but the NWT, KJV, NASB, NAB did not alter the sense of the Greek with their additions. The other translations did.)
Titus 2:13; 2 Peter 1:1 - NJB/fail ;NWT/pass (BeDuhn points out that the Granville Sharp rule is not a valid rule.)
Hebrews 1:8 - NJB/likely fail (NWT/likely pass) (Translation can go either way, but the NWT's is the most likely translation, according to BeDuhn.)
John 8:58 - NJB/fail; NWT/pass (BeDuhn criticized the word order of the NWT. The Living Bible gets the best rating by BeDuhn.)
John 1:1 - NJB/fail; NWT/pass (BeDuhn doesn't think that the NWT's rendering is the best for this verse, but it was the best of the nine translations.)
Use of the Divine name in the Hebrew Scriptures - NJB/pass (NWT/pass)
Use of the Divine name in the Greek Scriptures - NJB/pass (NWT/fail)
BAR-ARERGES brings up some good points. He touched on what I had already mentioned, about the NWT's superior handling of verbs. The NWT is superior to any other translation I have seen at bringing out the fullest sense of Greek verbs.
He also brings out the NWT's habit of translating words as exactly as possible, such as epignosis. Others here have commented on the consistency of the NWT's rendering of certain words, and then you countered and said that the NJB and a few others do the same thing. However, I believe that the NWT is superior in that it brings out more subtleties, like with epignosis.
I also noticed a tendency for the NJB to paraphrase. This may be because it makes it easier to read, and helps explain things better. But in my book, the "Best" Bible translation would be one that most accurately reflects the original languages, not one that is the easiest to read.
- XLv 71 decade ago
You're asking a question to get the opinions of others. So there's no right or wrong about it.
My opinion is that the New World Translation IS the best because it is the most accurate and reliable translation available today.