“The word of God is alive.”—HEBREWS 4:12.
1. (a) What assignment did God give to Adam? (b) Since then, how have God’s people used the gift of language?
JEHOVAH GOD gave humans the gift of language. In the garden of Eden, God gave Adam the assignment to name all the animals. Adam gave each animal a meaningful name. (Genesis 2:19, 20) Since then, God’s people have used the gift of language to praise Jehovah and tell others about him. In recent times, God’s people have used this gift to translate the Bible so that more people can learn about Jehovah.
2. (a) What principles did the members of the New World Bible Translation Committee follow in their work? (b) What will we learn in this article?
2 There are thousands of Bible translations, but some are more accurate than others. To translate the Bible accurately, the New World Bible Translation Committee decided to follow three basic principles: (1) Honor God’s name and use it in his Word as many times as the original. (Read Matthew 6:9.) (2) Translate the original message word for word where possible. Where not possible, translate the correct meaning. (3) Use language that is easy to read and understand.* (See footnote.) (Read Nehemiah 8:8, 12.) These three principles have been followed by translators of the New World Translation in more than 130 different languages. In this article, we will learn how these principles apply to the 2013 revision of the New World Translation and to its translation into other languages as well.
A BIBLE THAT HONORS GOD’S NAME
3, 4. (a) Where do we find the Tetragrammaton? (b) What have many Bible translations done with God’s name?
3 God’s name is represented by four Hebrew letters called the Tetragrammaton. We can find the Tetragrammaton in many old Hebrew manuscripts, such as the Dead Sea Scrolls. We can also find it in some copies of the Greek Septuagint. These copies were made as early as 200 years before Christ and as late as 100 years after Christ. Many people are impressed when they see how often God’s name appears in old manuscripts.
Many are impressed when they see how often God’s name appears in old manuscripts
4 Clearly, God’s name should be in the Bible. Still, many translations do not use God’s name. For example, just two years after the New World Translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures was released, a revision of the American Standard Version was released. The 1901 edition used God’s name, but the 1952 revision did not. Why? Its translators felt that it was “entirely inappropriate” to use God’s name. Many translations, both in English and in other languages, have done the same.
5. Why is it important to use God’s name in the Bible?
5 Does it really matter whether translators include God’s name or not? Yes! Jehovah, the Author of the Bible, wants people to know his name. A good translator should know what an author wants, and that should affect his translation decisions. Many scriptures show that God’s name is important and that it must be honored. (Exodus 3:15; Psalm 83:18; 148:13; Isaiah 42:8; 43:10; John 17:6, 26; Acts 15:14) And Jehovah inspired Bible writers to use his name thousands of times in ancient manuscripts. (Read Ezekiel 38:23.) So when translators omit God’s name, they do not respect Jehovah.
6. Why was God’s name added in six places in the revised New World Translation?
6 Today, there is even more proof that we should use Jehovah’s name. The 2013 revision of the New World Translation uses God’s name 7,216 times. That is six more than the previous edition. Five of these were added because God’s name was found in the recently published Dead Sea Scrolls.* (See footnote.) These five are found at 1 Samuel 2:25; 6:3; 10:26; 23:14, 16. The sixth, at Judges 19:18, was added as a result of further study of reliable old Bible manuscripts.
7, 8. What is the meaning of the name Jehovah?
7 True Christians feel that it is important to understand the full meaning of God’s name. His name means “He Causes to Become.”* (See footnote.) In the past, our publications explained the meaning of God’s name using Exodus 3:14, which says: “I Will Become What I Choose to Become.” The 1984 revision explained that Jehovah causes himself to become whatever he chooses to be in order to fulfill his promises.* (See footnote.) However, the 2013 revision explains: “While the name Jehovah may include this idea, it is not limited to what he himself chooses to become. It also includes what he causes to happen with regard to his creation and the accomplishment of his purpose.”
8 Jehovah causes his creation to become whatever he chooses. For example, God caused Noah to become the builder of the ark, Bezalel to become an expert craftsman, Gideon to be a great warrior, and Paul to be a missionary. God’s name has real meaning for his people, and this is why the New World Bible Translation Committee included God’s name in this translation.
9. Why has translation of the Bible into other languages been given priority?
9 More and more Bible translations leave out God’s personal name. Instead, they use the title “Lord” or the name of a local god. This is one of the main reasons why the Governing Body feels that it is very important that people of all languages have a Bible that honors God’s name. (Read Malachi 3:16.) So far, Jehovah’s name is being honored in editions of the New World Translation in more than 130 languages.
A CLEAR AND ACCURATE TRANSLATION
10, 11. What have been some difficulties while translating the New World Translation into other languages?
10 There have been difficulties while translating the English New World Translation into other languages. For example, the English edition used the Hebrew word “Sheol” at Ecclesiastes 9:10 and in other verses. This expression was common in other English Bibles as well. However, this word could not be used in many languages because most readers of these languages did not know the Hebrew word “Sheol.”. It was not in their dictionaries, and some even thought that it was the name of a location. For these reasons, translators were given approval to translate the Hebrew word “Sheol” and the Greek word “Hades” as “the Grave.” This is an accurate translation and makes the text clearer.
11 The Hebrew and Greek words for “soul” were also difficult to translate into some languages. In these languages, the word for “soul” usually refers to a ghost or to something that leaves the body at death. To avoid this misunderstanding, translators were given approval to translate the word “soul” according to the context of the word. An explanation of the various meanings of the word “soul” can be found in the appendix of the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures—With References. Helpful information about Hebrew and Greek words is placed in footnotes of the revised edition so that the Bible text is easy to read and understand.
The committee studied thousands of questions from Bible translators during the revision
12. What are some other changes that were made in the 2013 revision? (See also the article “The 2013 Revision of the New World Translation” found in the standard edition of this issue.)
12 Questions from translators revealed other possible misunderstandings of the Bible text. So in September 2007, the Governing Body gave approval to revise the English edition. The committee studied thousands of questions from Bible translators during the revision. English expressions that were old were replaced with modern ones, which made the text easier to read and understand while maintaining its accuracy. Translation that had already recently been done in other languages also helped to improve the English text.—Proverbs 27:17.
13. How do many feel about the 2013 revision?
13 How do many feel about the revised English New World Translation? Thousands of letters of appreciation from our brothers and sisters have been received at the headquarters of Jehovah’s Witnesses at Brooklyn, New York. Many feel like one sister who wrote: “The Bible is a treasure chest brimming over with valuable jewels. To read Jehovah’s words clearly by using the 2013 revision can be compared to examining each jewel, admiring its many facets, clarity, color, and beauty. The Scriptures conveyed in simple language have helped me to become better acquainted with Jehovah, who is like a father with his arms around me while he reads his soothing words to me.”
14, 15. How do people feel about the New World Translation in other languages?
14 People who speak languages other than English are also thankful for the New World Translation. An elderly man from Sofia, Bulgaria, said about the Bulgarian edition: “I have read the Bible for many years, but I have never read a translation that is easier to understand and that goes right to the heart.” Likewise, an Albanian sister wrote: “How beautiful God’s Word sounds in Albanian! What a privilege to have Jehovah speak to us in our own language!”
15 In many countries, Bibles are expensive or very difficult to find. To receive a Bible is a great blessing! A report from Rwanda said: “For a long time, many people with whom the brothers were studying had not progressed because they had no Bibles. They could not afford to purchase the local church edition. And they often could not clearly understand the meaning of certain verses, which hindered their progress.” When the New World Translation became available in their local language, a Rwandan family with four teenagers said: “We really thank Jehovah and the faithful and discreet slave for giving us this Bible. We are very poor and had no money to purchase Bibles for every member of the family. But now each of us has his own Bible. To show our gratitude to Jehovah, we read the Bible as a family every day.”
16, 17. (a) What does Jehovah want for his people? (b) What should we be determined to do?
16 The revised New World Translation will be made available in more languages in the future. Satan tries to stop this work, but we know that Jehovah wants all his people to listen as he speaks to them in clear, understandable language. (Read Isaiah 30:21.) Soon, “the earth will certainly be filled with the knowledge of Jehovah as the waters cover the sea.”—Isaiah 11:9.
17 May we be determined to use every gift from Jehovah, including this translation that honors his name. Let him speak with you every day through his Word. He is able to listen attentively to all our prayers. This communication will help us to come to know Jehovah ever more, and our love for him will keep growing.—John 17:3.
The Dead Sea Scrolls are more than 1,000 years older than the Hebrew Masoretic text.
Some reference books give this explanation, but not all experts agree.
See the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures—With References, Appendix 1A, “The Divine Name in the Hebrew Scriptures,” page 1561.