Definition: A translation of the Holy Scriptures made directly from Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek into modern-day English by a committee of anointed witnesses of Jehovah. These expressed themselves regarding their work as follows: “The translators of this work, who fear and love the Divine Author of the Holy Scriptures, feel toward Him a special responsibility to transmit his thoughts and declarations as accurately as possible. They also feel a responsibility toward the searching readers who depend upon a translation of the inspired Word of the Most High God for their everlasting salvation.” This translation was originally released in sections, from 1950 to 1960. Editions in other languages have been based on the English translation.
On what is the “New World Translation” based?
As a basis for translating the Hebrew Scriptures, the text of Rudolf Kittel’s Biblia Hebraica, editions of 1951-1955, was used. The 1984 revision of the New World Translation benefited from updating in harmony with the Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia of 1977. Additionally, the Dead Sea Scrolls and numerous early translations into other languages were consulted. For the Christian Greek Scriptures, the master Greek text of 1881 as prepared by Westcott and Hort was used primarily, but several other master texts were consulted as well as numerous early versions in other languages.
Who were the translators?
When presenting as a gift the publishing rights to their translation, the New World Bible Translation Committee requested that its members remain anonymous. The Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania has honored their request. The translators were not seeking prominence for themselves but only to honor the Divine Author of the Holy Scriptures.
Over the years other translation committees have taken a similar view. For example, the jacket of the Reference Edition (1971) of the New American Standard Bible states: “We have not used any scholar’s name for reference or recommendations because it is our belief God’s Word should stand on its merits.”
Is it really a scholarly translation?
Since the translators have chosen to remain anonymous, the question cannot here be answered in terms of their educational background. The translation must be appraised on its own merits.
What kind of translation is this? For one thing, it is an accurate, largely literal translation from the original languages. It is not a loose paraphrase, in which the translators leave out details that they consider unimportant and add ideas that they believe will be helpful. As an aid to students, a number of editions provide extensive footnotes showing variant readings where expressions can legitimately be rendered in more than one way, also a listing of the specific ancient manuscripts on which certain renderings are based.
Some verses may not read the same as what a person is accustomed to. Which rendering is right? Readers are invited to examine manuscript support cited in footnotes of the Reference edition of the New World Translation, read explanations given in the appendix, and compare the rendering with a variety of other translations. They will generally find that some other translators have also seen the need to express the matter in a similar manner.
Why is the name Jehovah used in the Christian Greek Scriptures?
It should be noted that the New World Translation is not the only Bible that does this. The divine name appears in translations of the Christian Greek Scriptures into Hebrew, in passages where quotations are made directly from the inspired Hebrew Scriptures. The Emphatic Diaglott (1864) contains the name Jehovah 18 times. Versions of the Christian Greek Scriptures in at least 38 other languages also use a vernacular form of the divine name.
The emphasis that Jesus Christ put on the name of his Father indicates that he personally used it freely. (Matt. 6:9; John 17:6, 26) According to Jerome of the fourth century C.E., the apostle Matthew wrote his Gospel first in Hebrew, and that Gospel makes numerous quotations of passages from the Hebrew Scriptures that contain the divine name. Others of the Christian Greek Scripture writers quoted from the Greek Septuagint (a translation of the Hebrew Scriptures into Greek, begun about 280 B.C.E.), early copies of which contained the divine name in Hebrew characters, as shown by actual fragments that have been preserved.
Professor George Howard of the University of Georgia wrote: “Since the Tetragram [four Hebrew letters for the divine name] was still written in the copies of the Greek Bible which made up the Scriptures of the early church, it is reasonable to believe that the N[ew] T[estament] writers, when quoting from Scripture, preserved the Tetragram within the biblical text.”—Journal of Biblical Literature, March 1977, p. 77.
Why are some verses apparently missing?
Those verses, found in some translations, are not in the oldest available Bible manuscripts. Comparison with other modern translations, such as The New English Bible and the Catholic Jerusalem Bible, shows that other translators have also recognized that the verses in question do not belong in the Bible. In some instances, they were taken from another part of the Bible and added to the text being copied by a scribe.
If Someone Says—
‘You have your own Bible’
You might reply: ‘Which translation of the Bible do you have? Is it . . . (list several in your language)? There are many translations, you know.’ Then perhaps add: ‘I’m glad to use whatever translation you prefer. But you may be interested in knowing why I especially like the New World Translation. It is because of its modern, understandable language, also because the translators held so closely to what is in the original Bible languages.’
Or you could say: ‘What you say makes me feel that you must have a Bible in your home. What translation of the Bible do you use? . . . Would you be willing to get it?’ Then perhaps add: ‘For all of us, regardless of which translation we use, at John 17:3 Jesus stressed the important thing to keep in mind, as you can see here in your own Bible. . . . ’
Another possibility: ‘There are many translations of the Bible. Our Society encourages the use of a variety of them in order to make comparisons and to help students to grasp the real sense of the Scriptures. As you may know, the Bible was originally written in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek. So we appreciate what translators have done to put it into our language. Which Bible translation do you use?’
An additional suggestion: ‘Evidently you are a person who loves God’s Word. So I am sure you would be interested in knowing what one of the big differences is between the New World Translation and other versions. It involves the name of the most important person spoken of in the Scriptures. Do you know who that is?’ Then perhaps add: (1) ‘Did you know that his personal name appears in the Bible in the original Hebrew some 7,000 times—more than any other name?’ (2) ‘What difference does it make whether we use the personal name of God or not? Well, do you have any really close friends whose name you do not know? . . . If we want a personal relationship with God, knowing his name is an important start. Notice what Jesus said at John 17:3, 6. (Ps. 83:18)’