Riches of the Full Assurance of Our Understanding
“Their hearts may be comforted, that they may be harmoniously joined together in love and with a view to all the riches of the full assurance of their understanding, with a view to an accurate knowledge of the sacred secret of God, namely, Christ.”—Col. 2:2, NW.
1. How do we gain the full assurance of understanding? For what purpose?
JEHOVAH God wants his people to understand his written Word, the Bible. By understanding we gain the full assurance concerning what we believe. It is only when we understand that we can declare our beliefs to other people and can do so with strong conviction that we have the truth, which is worthy of acceptance by all. There is not much good in hearing something and yet not understanding it, for then it does not mean anything to us. We can never do right without understanding what the will of God is. Rather, we are sure to act foolish in his sight, and this would not win his approval. But when we understand his will as contained in his written instructions, we can do it. And as we do so it builds up a full assurance of hope in us, and we can firmly hold on to that hope to the end, till we inherit what God has promised and we reap his good reward for our service. We want to understand how to approach him properly in prayer and what to pray for, that we may gain an answer. Then we can draw near to him in full assurance. We want to understand definitely what the hope is which he has set before us, that we may never suffer the disappointment of false hopes, having wasted all our efforts in aiming wrong. (Heb. 6:11, 12 and Heb 10:22, 23, NW) Hence we cannot afford to underrate the riches of the full assurance of understanding.
2. Why did Hebrews in Nehemiah’s day need to have the Bible translated to them?
2 As far as the vast majority of mankind is concerned, the Bible, in which God’s will and purpose are expressed, is written in dead languages, Hebrew and ancient common (koi·neʹ) Greek. For that reason the original Bible has needed to be translated for us to know what it says. Even then it has to be translated or explained in such a way as to give us an understanding of what it says. Already five centuries before Christ the Hebrews or Israelites themselves had to have their own Hebrew Scriptures translated to them in order to grasp their contents. Jerusalem had been destroyed and the survivors had been carried captive to Babylon. During their seventy years of exile there a new generation had grown up. Because of the close association of the rising generation with the Babylonians they had lost their mother tongue and had come to speak Ar·a·maʹic, a language similar to Hebrew and related to it. This is what they spoke when they were restored to their homeland. Eighty-two years after they were restored Governor Nehemiah succeeded in rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem. They had a celebration over it, at which Ezra the priest and other Levites read the Bible to the assembled people. But for the audience in general to understand it these readers had to interpret it to them. On this we read, at Nehemiah 8:7, 8: They “explained the meaning of the law to the people as they stood; they read from the book, from the law of God, translating as they went and explaining the meaning, so that the people understood what was read”. (Mo) By having the Bible text translated from Hebrew to the ar·a·maʹic which they spoke, the people came to understand what God’s law was.
3. Why are modern translations of the Bible proper today? Which is a most unique version among them?
3 Today in many countries many of our Bible translations are in out-of-date language and so are not fully understandable but need explanation in modern terms. For example, the Roman Catholic Douay Version of the Bible was completed in 1610. The popular German translation by Martin Luther was completed in 1534, but later revised by him. The most popular Bible edition, the King James or Authorized Version, was published in 1611. Thus these Bible versions are hundreds of years old, and by now languages have undergone great changes in meanings of words and in forms of expression. Also our understanding on the meaning of the original Hebrew, Ar·a·maʹic and Greek of the Bible has improved, to make possible a more accurate translation. Quite properly many translations that make use of the present-day advantages have appeared in modern speech, and all these cast a brighter light upon the pages of the Holy Scriptures. At the time of publishing this, the latest and doubtless most unique version to appear is that entitled “New World Translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures”, first released on Wednesday afternoon, August 2, 1950, at the 8-day international Theocracy’s Increase Assembly of Jehovah’s Witnesses, Yankee Stadium, New York city. A reading of this version, produced by the New World Bible Translation Committee, adds tremendously to our riches of the full assurance of our understanding of God’s Word. Its striking features are many. As we here take note of some of them, it would be well for any readers having a copy of this new version to have it at hand for consultation.
DISTINGUISHING OF WORD MEANINGS
4. How does this version distinguish between words translated world?
4 In the King James Version as well as in other old versions great misunderstanding has been caused by rendering two or more different words in the original Greek by one English word. The New World Translation, however, maintains the fine distinctions between the original words, and thereby aids toward the right interpretation of the Scriptures. Take, for instance, the word “world”. In the King James Version it is used to translate four different Greek words: ai·onʹ, gē, kosʹmos and oi·kou·meʹnē. In Jesus’ prophecy on the end of this world organization all four words occur. The King James Version does not differentiate between three of them; it renders all three “world”. But note the new version’s readings where the three words are found at Matthew 24:3, 14, 21; 25:34, NW: “While he was sitting upon the mount of Olives, the disciples approached him privately, saying: ‘Tell us, When will these things be, and what will be the sign of your presence and of the consummation of the [ai·onʹ] system of things?’” Jesus replied: “This good news of the kingdom will be preached in all the [oi·kou·meʹnē] inhabited earth for the purpose of a witness to all the nations, and then the accomplished end will come.” “For then there will be great tribulation such as has not occurred since the [kosʹmos] world’s beginning until now, no, nor will occur again.” “Come, you who have my Father’s blessing, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the [kosʹmos] world’s foundation.” Such translation can in no way lead readers to deduce that it is our literal earth that is to come to an end, but it is the system of things. That the term “earth”, which the King James renders “world” at Revelation 13:3, can be used in a symbolic way is shown by the new rendering: “And all the earth [gē] followed the wild beast with admiration.” (NW) Here, of course, earth means the people dwelling on the earth. Thus we see that only the one word [kosʹmos] is translated world throughout the new version. The one exception to translating it world is where 1 Peter 3:3 applies kosʹmos to women’s adornment.
5. What improvement does it make over the former translation Gentiles?
5 The name Gentile(s) is dropped and the force of the original word is brought out by rendering it “nations”, or “man of the nations”, or “people of the nations”. (Matt. 24:14; 18:17; 6:7, NW) Note this one instance, Jesus’ final command to his disciples: “Go therefore and make disciples of people of all the nations, baptizing them [the people, and not the nations] in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the holy spirit.”—Matt. 28:19, NW.
6. How does it bring out the sense of “pneuma” in five ways?
6 The word pneuʹma has the basic meaning of invisible, active force, and the new translation brings it out in five ways. First, as an unseen force in action, whether the wind or an impersonal spirit: We read: “The wind blows where it wants to, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from and where it is going. So is everyone that has been born from the spirit.” (John 3:8, NW) Second, as an unseen, heavenly person: “God is a Spirit.” (John 4:24, NW) Third, as a mental attitude or inclination: Whereas the King James says, “The Lord Jesus Christ be with thy spirit,” the new version says: “The Lord be with the spirit you show.” (2 Tim. 4:22, NW; also Phil. 4:23, NW) Fourth, as a moving or inspiring force: Instead of using the uncertain expression “in the spirit”, John is made to say: “By inspiration I came to be in the Lord’s day.” (Rev. 1:10, NW) This shows John came under the spirit’s power. Fifth, as an utterance inspired by an unseen source: “Beloved ones, do not believe every inspired expression, but test the inspired expressions to see whether they originate with God, because many false prophets have gone forth into the world. . . . this is the antichrist’s inspired expression which you have heard was coming.” (1 John 4:1-3, NW) “And I saw three unclean inspired expressions that looked like frogs come out of the mouth. . . . They are, in fact, expressions inspired by demons and perform signs, and they go forth to the kings of the entire inhabited earth, to gather them together to the war of the great day of God the Almighty.”—Rev. 16:13, 14, NW.
7. How does it distinguish between happiness and blessedness?
7 The King James renders two different Greek words as “blessed”. The new version always distinguishes between them and renders the one (ma·kaʹri·os) as “happy”. For instance, in the sermon on the mount we read: “Happy are those who are conscious of their spiritual need, since the kingdom of the heavens belongs to them. Happy are those who mourn, since they will be comforted.” And so on; so that we cannot any longer call them “beatitudes” in accord with the Latin Vulgate. We must call them states of happiness or felicities. (Matt. 5:3-12, NW) Consistent with this, Jesus’ human mother Mary is heard to say: “My soul magnifies Jehovah, . . . For, look! from now on all generations will pronounce me happy.” (Luke 1:46-48, NW) We likewise read of the “happy God” and of the “happy and only Potentate”. (1 Tim. 1:11; 6:15, NW) God and his Son are happy!
8. How does it show the length of existence of Jehovah’s witnesses?
8 In the King James at Hebrews 12:1, why the writer should suddenly introduce the word “witnesses” has led to a variety of interpreting, many thinking he means spectators witnessing an athletic race. But the new version shows that the related verb meaning “to bear witness” is used four times in the preceding chapter where he discusses faith and where he says: “By means of this the men of old times had witness borne to them.” He specifically names Abel and Enoch as having had this witness, and ends the chapter, saying: “And yet all these, although they had witness borne to them through their faith, did not get the fulfillment of the promise, as God foresaw something better for us.” He then opens the next chapter, saying: “So, then, because we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also put off every weight and the sin that easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race.” (Heb. 11:2, 4, 5, 39, 40; 12:1, NW) So we awake to the fact that the writer means the witnesses of Jehovah from Abel on to John the Baptist. By this we know that Jehovah’s witnesses did not have their beginning first in 1931, when that Scriptural name was publicly confessed at our international convention in Columbus, Ohio, to distinguish us from the hundreds of sects professing to be Christian.
9, 10. How does it emphasize the promotion of the wise, faithful servant?
9 Modern versions render several Greek words by “household”, including the word which occurs only once, at Matthew 24:45. But here the new version makes a striking distinction, rendering the text: “Who really is the faithful and discreet slave whom his master appointed over his domestics [oi·ke·teiʹa] to give them their food at the proper time?” (NW) The similar text at Luke 12:42 enlarges on the word domestics by using the words “body of attendants”, showing what “domestics” means. There seems to be only one other English translation that holds with this rendering “domestics”, and that is Murdock’s translation from the Syriac version. The translation from the Syriac by A. S. Lewis renders it “companions”, that is, companion slaves. All other versions indifferently render it “household”. But Osty’s 1949 French translation agrees by rendering it “domestiques”; and the German translations by Luther and by Perk (1947), and the Elberfelder, agree, and also the Spanish translations by Nácar-Colunga (1948) and by Bover-Cantera (1947) and the Hispano-Americana, and also the Portuguese translation by J. F. D’Almeida.
10 With this accurate rendering we can appreciate how our Lord promotes this consecrated service organization which he pictures as the “faithful and discreet slave” at this end of the world. Before being promoted the slave is put over only the Lord’s “domestics”, or “body of attendants”, to give them their spiritual food at the proper time; and so we can see how one in his position could turn evil and start beating his fellow slaves. But what promotion does the discreet slave organization get for faithfully feeding all the Lord’s domestics? Jesus’ prophecy on the world’s end answers: “Happy is that slave if his master on arriving finds him doing so. Truly I say to you that he will appoint him over [what?] ALL his belongings.” (Matt. 24:46, 47, NW; Luke 12:43, 44) And now the facts show that Jesus promoted his anointed slave class in this way since 1919.
DEATH STATE, “HELL,” AND SOUL
11. How does it show that the death state is like sleep?
11 Jesus compared death to a sleep. Speaking of the death of his dear friend he said: “Lazarus our friend has gone to rest, but I am traveling there to awaken him from sleep.” Then in explanation he said outspokenly to his disciples: “Lazarus has died.” (John 11:11-14, NW) Our new version shows where the verb “sleep” means death. When the martyr Stephen was being stoned and had said his last word, we read: “And after saying this he fell asleep in death.” Also, David “fell asleep in death and was laid with his forefathers”. As for a wife, “if her husband should fall asleep in death, she is free to be married to whom she wants.” To Christians the apostle says: “We do not want you to be ignorant concerning those who are sleeping in death, that you may not sorrow just as the rest also do who have no hope.” And those who ridicule us today for our warning of the world’s end were foretold as saying to us: “Why, from the day our forefathers fell asleep in death, all things are continuing exactly as from creation’s beginning.”—Acts 7:60; 13:36; 1 Cor. 7:39; 1 Thess. 4:13; 2 Pet. 3:4, NW.
12. As to “hell”, what three Greek words does it distinguish? How?
12 Consistent with the fact that the death state of those redeemed by Jesus is like a sleep, the new version clearly distinguishes between three different Greek words, rendering them respectively as Hades, Gehenna and Tartarus. The King James renders all three words by the one English term “hell”. This has led to many a hell-fire sermon and to much confusion and mental agony of those who lost loved ones in death. The word “hell”, with the terror which the religious clergy have loaded into it, does not appear in the New World Translation. Its appendix contains an illuminating explanation of Hades, Gehenna and Tartarus, showing their restricted meanings and the difference between them.
13. What does it show those three Greek words to apply to or mean?
13 The footnotes below the translation show that Hades corresponds with the Hebrew “Sheʹol” and applies to the common grave of mankind redeemed by Christ and it will one day be completely emptied by the resurrection of all who are in their individual graves. Hence Peter applies the prophecy to Jesus when he was in the common grave of mankind: “You will not forsake my soul in Hades.” He adds that David the prophet here “saw beforehand and spoke concerning the resurrection of the Christ, that neither was he forsaken in Hades”. (Acts 2:27, 31, NW) Later Jesus tells John: “I have the keys of death and of Hades.” The vision of when he applies those keys reads: “And death and Hades gave up those dead in them, and they were judged individually according to their deeds. And death and Hades were hurled into the lake of fire. This means the second death, the lake of fire.” That means the death or finish of Hades. The symbolic “lake of fire” corresponds with Gehenna and pictures everlasting destruction. Jesus tells us so in these words: “Do not become fearful of those who kill the body but can not kill the soul; but rather be in fear of him that can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna.” Jesus contrasts life and Gehenna, because to be condemned to Gehenna means to be blotted out from all life. (Matt. 10:28; 18:9; 23:33; Mark 9:43-47, NW) The third term, Tartarus, applies only to the fallen angel spirits, and not to us humans. Occurring just once, at 2 Peter 2:4, it describes such angels’ present abased condition for their sinful rebellion against Jehovah God.
14. How does it give prominence to the mortality of the human soul?
14 In a text just quoted, Jesus declared God had the power to destroy both the human body and the soul in Gehenna. This awakens us to the awful fact that the human soul is destructible and by no means immortal as the pagan philosophers Pythagoras, Socrates and Plato taught. The Christian truth on the human soul’s mortality and destructibleness is given unusual prominence in the new Bible version in that it consistently translates the Greek word psy·cheʹ by the one word “soul” in the 102 occurrences of the Greek word. This proves to be, not bunglesome, but very revealing on how the clergy of Christendom have adopted and taught pagan falsehoods about the human soul instead of Christian truth.
15. How does the appendix show features about “soul”?
15 The Appendix groups the occurrences of the word psy·cheʹ under different headings to show that the soul is distinguished from the spirit and that live persons or creatures are themselves souls. For example, 1 Corinthians 15:45 (NW) reads: “The first man Adam became a living soul.” And 1 Peter 3:20 (NW) reads: “The patience of God was waiting in Noah’s days, while the ark was being constructed, in which a few people, that is, eight souls, were carried safely through the water.” But concerning the human soul’s mortalness, hear Jesus’ further words: “Is it lawful on the sabbath to do a good deed or to do an injury, to save or to kill a soul?” (Mark 3:4; Luke 6:9, NW) Also: “Whoever seeks to keep his soul safe for himself will lose it, but whoever loses it will preserve it alive.” “He that is fond of his soul destroys it, but he that hates his soul in this world will safeguard it for everlasting life.” (Luke 17:33; John 12:25, NW; compare Joshua 10:28, 30, 32, 35, 37, 39; 11:11) “My soul is deeply grieved, even to death.” (Matt. 26:38; Mark 14:34, NW) And so with many other scriptures. But this Christian doctrine that our souls die and that the dead are unconscious and inactive is in full harmony with the comforting doctrine of resurrection.