Further Enrichment of Understanding
1. How has the new translation been careful about the Greek verb?
ONE of the most important parts of speech of any language is the verb. It is doubtless the most difficult part of speech to master. To enrich our understanding of the Christian Greek Scriptures fully the translator must understand that complicated part of Greek speech, the verb. It has a number of voices and tenses and modes. A number of distinctions between all these were dying out with the passing away of the classical Greek and the prevalence of the common or koi·nēʹ Greek in the days of Jesus and his apostles. Yet the modern translator cannot afford to be careless and loose as to the exact shade of meaning of a verb. In Greek the verb tenses not only express the time of an action or state, but also the kind of action, whether starting out, or continuative, or repetitious, or completed at a certain point. Attention to such senses contained in the verb forms leads to a precise translation and a nicety of expression. To some readers it may look like a free translation rather than a literal one, but such is not actually the case. A brief consideration of some cases which show the attention that the New World Translation has given to the descriptive force of the verb will prove enlightening.
2. What does it do with the historical present tense of the verb?
2 It appears that, except in the book of Revelation, the New World Translation has done away with the historical present and has rendered all cases of it as verbs in the past tense. Thus, where the King James reads, “Then the devil leaveth [historical present] him, and, behold, angels came and ministered unto him,” we now read: “Then the Devil left him, and, look! angels came and began to minister to him.” (Matt. 4:11, NW) Note that expression, “began to minister,” instead of “ministered”. This is because the verb “minister” is put in the imperfect tense and here it denotes the beginning of an action that continues for a time.
3. How does it render the present tense to show continuous action and the command to do it no more?
3 A fine rendering of the present tense where it denotes action that still continues from the past is given us at John 5:17. The King James reads: “My Father worketh hitherto, and I work.” But the new version reads: “My Father has kept working until now, and I keep working.” (NW) Another good rendering of the present tense which denotes duration or continuance of action is at John 17:3, which reads: “This means everlasting life, their taking in knowledge of you, the only true God, and of the one whom you sent forth, Jesus Christ.” (NW) Not just coming to know, but their continuing to know, or rather, their taking in knowledge of God and Jesus Christ results in everlasting life. A continuative present we find at Matthew 16:4: “A wicked and adulterous generation keeps on seeking for a sign.” (NW) The rendering of the present tense of verbs in the form of a command is interesting. For example: “Continue to love your enemies and to pray for those persecuting you.” “Keep on, then, seeking first the kingdom.” (Matt. 5:44; 6:33, NW) “Finally, brothers, carry on prayer for us.” (2 Thess. 3:1, NW) As for negative commands: “Stop judging, that you may not be judged.” (Matt. 7:1, NW) To Mary Magdalene Jesus says: “Stop clinging to me. For I have not yet ascended to the Father.” (John 20:17, NW) And the man in bed says to the friend knocking at his door at midnight: “Quit making me trouble.” (Luke 11:7, NW) In these cases the action has been going on, and now the command is to stop it or quit it.
4. How does it show the imperfect tense expresses attempted action?
4 Take, now, the imperfect tense: It may express not only the start of an action that continues, but also an attempt to do something. Hence, instead of John’s forbidding a man, we read: “John said: ‘Instructor, we saw a certain man expelling demons by the use of your name and we tried to prevent him, because he is not following with us.’ But Jesus said to him: ‘Do not you men try to prevent him.’” (Luke 9:49, NW) Also, Abraham did not actually sacrifice his son, Isaac, but we read: “By faith Abraham, when he was put to the test, offered up Isaac, and the man that had gladly received the promises attempted to offer up his only-begotten son.”—Heb. 11:17, NW.
5. What does “aorist” mean? How does it render this verb tense?
5 The Greek has also a peculiar tense called the “aorist”, which means “not bounded” as to time. Verbs in the aorist tense may be rendered in a variety of ways according to their context. It is interesting at times to make a difference between these and verbs in the present tense or in the perfect tense. The aorist tense may mark a definite occurrence of something at an unstated time in the past. That is why we read, at Matthew 3:17: “This is my Son, the beloved, whom I have approved.” (NW) Again, it may denote customary or proverbial action, as at John 15:6 (NW) on the vine and the branches: “If anyone does not remain in union with me, he is cast out as a branch and is dried up.” (Also Matthew 11:19; Luke 7:35, NW) Then there is the letter-writer’s aorist tense. While at it he describes his writing as past, because it will be so when his readers get his letter; but today we say it in the present tense, as at 1 John 2:13, 14, NW, “I write you, young children, because you have come to know the Father. I write you, fathers, because you have come to know him,” etc. In commands the aorist, unlike the present tense, denotes the command to do something not yet begun or undertaken, an action at a certain point. For example: “Tell the daughter of Zion, ‘Look! your King is coming to you.” (Matt. 21:4, NW) Also: “Do not become fearful of those who kill the body but can not kill the soul.” (Matt. 10:28, NW) Also: “Do not give what is holy to dogs, neither throw your pearls before swine.”—Matt. 7:6, NW.
6. How does it show the difference between the aorist and the present tense as to committing an act and practicing something?
6 Rather than to denote practicing something regularly, the aorist tense may denote the committing of just one act of that kind. Hence we hear the Devil say to Jesus on the mount of temptation: “All these things I will give you if you fall down and do an act of worship to me.” (Matt. 4:9, NW) And John writes us: “My little children, I am writing you these things that you may not commit a sin. And yet, if anyone does commit a sin, we have a helper with the Father, Jesus Christ, a righteous one.” (1 John 2:1, NW) Contrast that isolated act of sin with John’s using the present tense to say: “Everyone remaining in union with him does not practice sin; no one that practices sin has either seen him or come to know him. Little children, let no one mislead you; he who practices righteousness is righteous, just as that one is righteous. He who practices sin originates with the Devil, because the Devil has been sinning from when he began.” “Every person that has been born from God does not practice sin, but the One born from God watches him, and the wicked one does not fasten his hold on him.”—1 John 3:6-8; 5:18, NW.
DOCTRINAL DIFFICULTIES DISPOSED OF
7. What does “periphrastic” mean? How does Luke 21:17 show it?
7 One other observation about verbs, and that is an observation about them in the roundabout or periphrastic way of saying things. Proper regard for this form often leads us to a grasp of the right thought of the original and it safeguards us against error. In the similar cases of the periphrastic form we find it translated in a simple way, at Matthew 24:9 (NW): “You will be hated by all the nations on account of my name”; but at Luke 21:17 (NW) the periphrastic sense is more fully brought out in these words: “You will be objects of hatred by all persons because of my name.”
8 Four other cases, when rightly translated, do away with a false doctrine that has been built upon them. At Matthew 16:19 (NW) Jesus says to Peter: “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of the heavens, and whatever you may bind on earth will have been bound in the heavens, and whatever you may loose on earth will have been loosed in the heavens.” At Matthew 18:18 (NW) Jesus says to all his apostles: “Truly I say to you men, Whatever things you may bind on earth will have been bound in heaven and whatever things you may loose on earth will have been loosed in heaven.” Thus Jesus did not tell Peter and the other apostles that heaven would wait upon their decision and would afterward confirm and abide by their decision on earth. No; but whatever Peter and his fellow apostles might decide on earth, it would be the thing that had already been bound or loosed in heaven and Peter and his fellows would be merely expressing the prior decision of heaven. Thus heaven would not be dictated to from the earth upward, but the apostles on earth would be directed Theocratically from heaven downward. And so by the simple translation of the periphrastic form of the verb, without the insertion of any added words, the New World Translation disposes of a doctrinal error.
9 A nice rendering also helps to overcome an apparent contradiction between Acts 9:7 and Ac 22:9, on whether the men with Saul of Tarsus heard anything supernatural when the glorified Jesus showed himself to Saul on the road to Damascus. This difficulty is overcome by paying attention to the grammatical case of the word voice which is the object of the verb “hear”. That word voice (pho·nēʹ) can mean either sound or voice and it is translated both ways. At Acts 9:4 (NW) we read: “He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him: ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’” There the word voice is in the accusative case and Paul heard what the voice said. But Ac 9 verse 7 has voice change to the genitive case to show that his companions heard of the voice. Hence we now read: “The men that were journeying with him were standing speechless, hearing, indeed, the sound of a voice, but not beholding any man.” (NW) But did they hear with Paul what the voice said? No! For at Acts 22:9 Paul says: “The men that were with me beheld, indeed, the light but did not hear the voice [accusative case] of the one speaking to me.” (NW) He means that, though the men heard the sound, they did not hear what the voice was telling Paul. They did not get its message. But at Ac 22 verse 7 Paul tells us he himself not only heard the sound of the voice but also understood what it was saying: “I fell to the ground and heard a voice [genitive case] say to me: ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’” (NW) So in the footnote, it gives an alternative reading to show that Paul’s men did not hear in that they did not “hear understandingly”.—Compare 1 Corinthians 14:11, NW.
FOR GREATER CLEARNESS
10. What quotations show how it renders the Greek verb for “justify”?
10 At the start those who have long been enamored of the King James Version may bewail the disappearance of familiar terms and phrases. But in time they will see that the change of names, terms and expressions makes for greater clearness of meaning. Take that word “justified”. Very few people know its Bible meaning. The New World Translation renders the Greek verb for it “declare (or prove) righteous; declare guiltless; acquit; vindicate”. Romans 3:4 now reads: “Let God be found true, though every man be found a liar, even as it is written: ‘That you might be vindicated in your words and might win when you are being judged.’” (NW) Paul declares: “I am not conscious of anything against me. Yet by this I do not stand vindicated, but he that examines me is Jehovah.” (1 Cor. 4:4, NW) Jesus declares: “Wisdom is vindicated by its works.” And: “By your words you will be vindicated, and by your words you will be condemned.” (Matt. 11:19; 12:37; Luke 7:35, NW) To show our justification by faith in Jesus’ sacrifice, Paul says: “From all the things from which you could not be declared guiltless by means of the law of Moses, everyone who believes is declared guiltless by means of this One.” (Acts 13:39, NW) To Christians who die sacrificially with Jesus Paul further says: “He who has died has been acquitted from his sin. Moreover, if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him.”—Rom. 6:7, 8, NW.
11. How is the relationship between righteousness and faith more clearly shown?
11 How our justification is gained through faith in Christ’s blood is stated in these words: “Therefore, now that we have been declared righteous as a result of faith, let us enjoy peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Much more, therefore, since we have been declared righteous now by his blood, shall we be saved through him from wrath.” (Rom. 5:1, 9, NW) That God does the justifying, we read, in these words: “Those whom he called are the ones he also declared to be righteous. . . . Who will file accusation against God’s chosen ones? God is the One who declares them righteous.” (Rom. 8:30, 33, NW) In English the relation between the Anglo-Saxon word believing and the Latin word faith is not so apparent, but in Greek the words meaning “faith” and “to believe” are clearly seen to be related, as they are drawn from the same root word. The New World Translation endeavors to keep this relationship clear by rendering the verb “to believe” in appropriate places as “to exercise faith; to put faith; to rest faith”. Hence note how clear justification by faith is made in this rendering: “If, for instance, Abraham were declared righteous as a result of works, he would have grounds for boasting; but not with God. For what does the scripture say? ‘Abraham exercised faith in Jehovah, and it was counted to him as righteousness.’ . . . to the man that does not work but puts faith in him who declares the ungodly one righteous, his faith is counted as righteousness.” (Rom. 4:2, 3, 5, NW) Also, instead of the King James’ rendering, “I believed, and therefore have I spoken,” 2 Corinthians 4:13 now reads: “Now because we have the same spirit of faith as that of which it is written, ‘I exercised faith, therefore I spoke,’ we, too, exercise faith and therefore we speak.”—NW.
12 The inseparable connection of faith with justification and righteousness is further kept plainly in view in this rendering at Romans 10:4, 8-11 (NW): “Christ is the accomplished end of the Law, so that everyone exercising faith may have righteousness. But what does it say? ‘The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart’; that is, the ‘word’ of faith which we are preaching. For if you publicly declare that ‘word in your mouth’, that Jesus is Lord, and exercise faith in your heart that God raised him up from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one exercises faith for righteousness, but with the mouth one makes public declaration for salvation. For the Scripture says: ‘None that rests his faith on him will be disappointed.’”
13. Why do we find the rendering “legally establishing” at Philippians 1:7? What booklet title is based on it?
13 At the 1950 international assembly of Jehovah’s witnesses at Yankee Stadium, New York city, there was released to us the invaluable legal document, the 96-page booklet entitled “Defending and Legally Establishing the Good News”. By the way, that title is based on Paul’s words in prison at Rome, recorded at Philippians 1:7 (NW): “All of you being sharers with me in the undeserved kindness both in my prison bonds and in the defending and legally establishing of the good news.” The reader may wonder why the Greek word (be·baiʹo·sis) here is rendered “legally establishing”. We note that at Hebrews 6:16 (NW) the word has again the legal flavor and is translated “legal guarantee”. However, The Vocabulary of the Greek Testament by Moulton and Milligan (1914) shows it is a technical word with the flavor of judicial courts, and has it also at Philippians 1:7. Dr. Adolf Deissmann, a pioneer with ancient papyri manuscripts, held that “the word must always be read with the technical sense in mind” (page 108). The papyri discovered since Deissmann’s pioneer work was published support his proposition with many examples. So we can appreciate from Paul’s words that he was in prison at Rome in a fight to legally establish the right to preach the good news of God’s kingdom and the right of the gospel to have as free a circulation as all the heathen religions in the Roman empire.
14. On page 75 what does the booklet say on the Society and witnesses?
14 On page 75 of the booklet Defending and Legally Establishing the Good News we read one of the conclusions arrived at concerning the Watch Tower Bible & Tract Society after many years of fighting in the courts: “It is submitted that the Watch Tower Society and Jehovah’s witnesses are a legal religious organization and that their representatives engaged in preaching the gospel are legally recognized as ministers of religion, which entitles them to all privileges accorded to all religious organizations and ministers.”
15 This interesting conclusion makes us turn to the New World Translation for light on religion. The word nowhere occurs in the main body of the text, but does occur in an explanatory way in the footnotes. In contrast with the King James Version with its terms “religious” and “religion”, we now find “formal worshiper” and “form of worship” at James 1:26, 27: “If any man seems to himself to be a formal worshiper and yet does not bridle his tongue, but goes on deceiving his own heart, this man’s form of worship is futile. The form of worship that is clean and undefiled from the standpoint of our God and Father is this: to care for orphans and widows in their tribulation, and to keep oneself without spot from the world.” (NW) The footnotes show that the Old Latin Versions here read religiosum esse (to be religious) and religio (religion). That the Greek word here (thres·keiʹa) means “form of worship” is shown by Paul at Acts 26:5: “According to the strictest sect of our form of worship I lived a Pharisee.” (NW) Here the footnote shows the Old Latin texts read sectam nostrae religionis (sect of our religion). At Colossians 2:18 he also writes of “a form of worship of the angels”, and the footnote shows that the Old Latin versions read religione angelorum (a religion of the angels).
16. How did early Latin-speaking Christians use the word religio? Did Paul use it in court?
16 From this it is apparent that the early Latin-speaking Christians used religio (religion) as the equivalent of the Greek word (thres·keiʹa). Doubtless in the Roman court before which Paul appeared, the Latin term religio was applied to Paul’s form of worship, Christianity. But Paul did not object, because he understood the general, commonly accepted meaning of the word. Whether he carried on his fight in the Roman court in Latin or in Greek and whether he himself applied the term religio to his form of worship of Jehovah God we do not know. He was there to fight for its right to exist and to expand the same as any religio of the day.
17. Was Paul discourteous in his opening words to the Athenians on Mars Hill? Under what legal Latin term did he fight for Christianity?
17 We find the Roman governor Festus before whom Paul appeared in court referring to the Jewish worship as “worship of the deity”, when Festus said to King Agrippa: “They simply had certain disputes with him concerning their own worship of the deity and concerning a certain Jesus who was dead but who Paul kept asserting was alive.” (Acts 25:19, NW) The footnote here shows us that that expression “worship of the deity” is practically the same expression that Paul used when addressing the Athenians on Mars Hill and saying: “Men of Athens, I behold that in all things you seem to be more given to the fear of the deities than others are.” (Acts 17:22, NW) And as an illustration of that fact Paul referred to the altar he had found on which had been inscribed “To an Unknown God”, and Paul showed them this unknown Deity was his own God. Hence tactful Paul was not offending those refined men of the high court by saying they were more in fear of demons than others, using the word “demons” in its modern horrifying sense. The footnote shows that “demons were thought to be deities, not discourteously”. And so Festus applied the Greek expression (dei·si·dai·mo·niʹa) to the Jewish belief, but not in a discourteous way. If now Paul fought for Christianity with the legal term religio applied to it in his day, we can, too, in this day, without objection. It follows, therefore, that the proposition submitted on page 75 of the legal booklet is correct.
THE SENSES OF “ALL”
18. What sense of “all” is listed first, and where is it so used?
18 One of the words that has caused great difficulty in understanding is the little word “all”. How many are “all”? The Greek text uses it in three senses, as set forth in the New World Translation: (1) As meaning “all”, a totality, including everything and everyone; (2) as meaning all kinds, manners or sorts of persons or things; and (3) as meaning every other, or all other persons or things. When Jesus said the kingdom of heaven was like a merchant who, on finding one pearl of high value, “went and promptly sold all the things he had and bought it,” Jesus meant all things minus nothing. (Matt. 13:45, 46, NW) Where Paul says concerning God’s Son Jesus Christ, “When all things will have been subjected to him, then the Son himself will also subject himself to the one who subjected all things to him, that God may be all things to everyone,” Paul meant all things and all persons barring none. (1 Cor. 15:28, NW) That is the first sense of the word.
19. What is the second sense of “all”, and where is “all” so used?
19 Those who believe in universal salvation of all persons, including the Devil himself, will object to the second sense. But we cannot escape it, if we agree that the Scriptures are harmonious. Note how the New World Translation harmonizes the Scriptures that only those who gain knowledge and exercise faith to the finish will be saved: “The true light [Jesus] which gives light to every kind of man was about to come into the world.” Also Jesus’ own words: “I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw men of all kinds to me.” (John 1:9; 12:32, NW) Also: “Happy are you when people reproach you and persecute you and lyingly say every kind of wicked thing against you for my sake.” (Matt. 5:11, NW) Then Joel’s prophecy fulfilled on the day of Pentecost: “‘In the last days,’ God says, ‘I shall pour some of my spirit out upon every kind of flesh, and your sons and your daughters will prophesy and your young men will see visions and your old men will dream dreams; and even upon my men slaves and upon my women slaves I will pour out some of my spirit in those days, and they will prophesy.” (Acts 2:16-18, NW) Paul says Christians should pray “concerning all kinds of men” and then adds: “This is right and acceptable in the sight of our Savior, God, whose will is that all kinds of men should be saved and come to an accurate knowledge of truth.”—1 Tim. 2:1-4, NW, also 1Ti 2:6, footnotee.
20. So how is Romans 5:18, 19 rendered, and why rightly so?
20 But what about Romans 5:18, 19? you say. Well, we are relieved of all need of a long explanation by the rendering: “So, then, as through one trespass the result to men of all kinds was condemnation, likewise also through one act of justification the result to men of all kinds is a declaring of them righteous for life. For just as through the disobedience of the one man many were constituted sinners, likewise also through the obedience of the one person many will be constituted righteous.” (NW) Thus the fact that many, but not all men without exception, will be constituted righteous agrees with the related fact that the result of Christ’s act to men of all kinds is a declaring of them righteous for life. All this harmonizes with Paul’s argument up to this point that not only natural Jews but people of all other nations, people of all kinds, will have an opportunity for salvation. But not all men are saved.
21. What is the third sense of “all”, and where is it so used?
21 Now as to the third sense of “all”: This plays havoc with the trinitarian arguments. Yet this sense of “all other” or “every other” is perfectly grammatical and Scriptural. Note Jesus’ words showing this: “Keep on, then, seeking first the kingdom and his righteousness, and all these other things will be added to you.” In his prophecy on the world’s end: “Note the fig tree and all the other trees.” (Matt. 6:33; Luke 21:29; also Lu 13:2, 4, NW) Then Paul’s body illustration: “If one member suffers, all the other members suffer with it; or if a member is glorified, all the other members rejoice with it.” (1 Cor. 12:26; also 1Co 6:18, NW) As to Christ’s glorification Paul says: “God exalted him to a superior position and kindly gave him the name that is above every other name.”—Phil. 2:9, NW.
22, 23. How do trinitarians argue on Colossians 1:15-20, and how does the new translation dispose of their argument?
22 But now trinitarians confront you with Paul’s words at Colossians 1:15-20 according to the King James Version. They argue that, if Jesus Christ was before all things and all things consist by him and were created by him and for him, then he must be the very same as the Almighty, Most High God, or be one person with God. But we must harmonize these verses with all the other scriptures that Jesus Christ was God’s Son and a creation of His. So the Greek word here must be rendered in the sense of “all other”. Note, then, how the New World Translation blasts the trinitarian argument:
23 “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, . . . 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 firstborn 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 the heavens.” (NW) In harmony with this, Revelation 4:11 (NW) tells us that Jehovah God “created all things”, including his only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ.—See also John 3:31, NW.
FOR ONE MOST HIGH AND ALMIGHTY GOD
24. Does the name Jehovah apply to Jesus? How is your answer shown?
24 From this consideration alone it is evident that the New World Translation shows up sharply the distinction between Jehovah God and Jesus Christ because they are two separate and distinct persons, the One the Creator and the other a creature in God’s image. This translation, by restoring the name Jehovah to the rightful place it holds in the Greek Scriptures, shows that the name Jehovah is not applied to Jesus. For example, trinitarians are prone to link up Romans 10:13, a quotation of Joel 2:32, with Jesus. But now if we read in the New World Translation both verse 9 and verse 13 of Romans 10 we see the wrongness of that. We read the verses as follows: “For if you publicly declare that ‘word in your mouth’, that Jesus is Lord, and exercise faith in your heart that God raised him up from the dead, you will be saved. For ‘everyone that calls upon the name of Jehovah will be saved’.” (NW) We note that verse 9 does not say that, to be saved, you must publicly declare that Jesus is Jehovah, but that he is Lord, or Master. The footnote here shows that “Lord” here does not mean or refer to Jehovah, and that not even the Hebrew versions render it Jehovah. Hence, to be saved, it is upon the name of Jehovah that we must call, for he is the One that raised the Lord Jesus from the dead. All the context of these scriptures agrees with this. We could also refer to Acts 2:21, 24-36 to show that Jehovah and Jesus are distinct and that the divine name does not apply to the Son Jesus. There is only the one Most High and Almighty God, and that is Jehovah the Father of our Lord Jesus.
25. What other features of the translation do we not have space now to treat? To whom and for what do we commend its use?
25 But space fails us to tell of other outstanding features of this New World Translation, how it eliminates false passages that are not in the most ancient and authentic Greek manuscripts; how and why it drops the word “cross” in favor of “torture stake”; how it gives the Hebrew background to the Christian Greek Scriptures; how it sets forth Christ’s second presence or par·ou·siʹa with Kingdom power. But for some further information on its features we can refer our readers to our article of September 15, 1950, on “New World Translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures”. After our thorough examination and close scrutiny of this remarkable translation we commend its use in Bible study to all seekers of truth and life. By it they are sure to gain riches of the full assurance of their understanding.