“From House to House”
“EVERY day in the temple and from house to house they continued without letup teaching and declaring the good news about the Christ, Jesus.” (Acts 5:42) Jehovah’s Witnesses often use this text and the one at Acts 20:20 to prove the Scriptural basis for their door-to-door preaching work. In Germany, however, some critics of Jehovah’s Witnesses have challenged the way the New World Translation renders these verses, claiming that it misrepresents the original Greek.
Do such claims have validity? Not at all. For one thing, at least six other German Bible translations render these verses similarly. Among them are the revised Zürcher Bibel and the “New Testaments” by Rupert Storr, Franz Sigge, and Jakob Schäfer (revised by N. Adler). Many English versions agree.
German scholar Hans Bruns justifies his translation, “from house to house,” at Acts 5:42, saying: “According to the original text, it seems as if they went from house to house.” Yes, katʼ oiʹkon, the original expression in this text, is not used in an adverbial sense (“at home”) but in a distributive sense, literally meaning “according to house.” (The plural form, katʼ oiʹkous, meaning “according to houses,” is found at Acts 20:20.) Other scholars, such as Heinz Schürmann, substantiate the distributive translation of these expressions. Horst Balz and Gerhard Schneider, publishers of an exegetical dictionary to the New Testament, say that this expression can be rendered “house after house.” A number of English reference works explain this verse similarly.
Once again, then, the New World Translation has stood up to the attacks of critics. More important, it is clear that there is a solid Biblical basis for the house-to-house ministry. (Compare Matthew 10:11-14; 24:14.) Jehovah’s Witnesses are privileged to imitate their first-century counterparts in this regard.