“Make Disciples of People of All the Nations”
“GO THEREFORE and make disciples of people of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the holy spirit.” This is how the New World Translation renders Jesus’ command at Matthew 28:19. This rendering has, however, been criticized. One religious pamphlet, for example, claims: “The only translation allowed by the Greek text is: ‘Make disciples of all the nations!’” Is this true?
This rendering, “Make disciples of all nations,” appears in many Bible versions and is a literal translation of the Greek. So, what basis is there for the reading, “Make disciples of people of all the nations, baptizing them”? The context. The expression “baptizing them” clearly refers to individuals, not nations. German scholar Hans Bruns states: “The [word] ‘them’ does not refer to the nations (the Greek makes a clear distinction), but to the people in the nations.”
Further, the way Jesus’ command was carried out should be considered. Regarding the ministry of Paul and Barnabas in Derbe, a city in Asia Minor, we read: “After declaring the good news to that city and making quite a few disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch.” (Acts 14:21) Note that Paul and Barnabas made disciples, not of the city of Derbe, but of some of the people of Derbe.
Similarly, concerning the time of the end, the book of Revelation foretold, not that whole nations would serve God, but that “a great crowd . . . out of all nations and tribes and peoples and tongues” would do so. (Revelation 7:9) Thus, the New World Translation stands vindicated as a reliable translation of ‘all Scripture, inspired of God.’—2 Timothy 3:16.