Studying the New World Translation of the Jehovah’s Witnesses


The following is a message I sent to a friend who is a Jehovah’s Witness.  We have had a couple of conversations about faith and the Word, and our time together has caused me to do some further study.  As a resource to you, I wanted to post some of my findings.

I want to thank you again for coming to the house this weekend.  It was great to have you guys over.  Thanks for allowing our conversation to happen outside with my kids enjoying the Saturday morning weather.

You asked me to send you a list of verses that I was questioning.  I had mentioned to you that I was curious concerning the wording of some of the verses we read together, and the more I studied, the more concerned I have become regarding the New World Translation.  I appreciate your honesty in saying that you didn’t have an answer for some of my questions and appreciated even more your willingness to help me find some answers by writing some of your leaders.  In the meantime, I wanted to know more so I have done some research.

In our first visit together, you mentioned Matt. 24:14 and one of the phrases struck me as unique as you read it.  The New World Translation (or the NWT) translates the verse this way:

And this good news of the Kingdom will be preached in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come (NWT).

I had memorized the verse years ago in the New American Standard translation and remembered it as:

This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come (NASB).

While it may appear to be merely semantics concerning the difference between “whole world” and “inhabited earth,” it struck me as an odd phrase to use there.  It caused me to wonder if there were other words or phrases that had been translated differently.

The Torture Stake

As you began to read Luke 9:23, I became aware that the NWT had more significant changes.  In the NWT, it reads:

Then he went on to say to all: “If anyone wants to come after me, let him disown himself and pick up his torture stake day after day and keep following me.

In the NASB, which is the translation I memorized this verse in, it reads:

And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.

In the NASB, and every other known translation, the word “cross” is used, but Jehovah’s Witnesses have translated that word as “torture stake.”  As I questioned that word, you educated me concerning the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ belief that Jesus did not die on a cross but instead died on a torture stake and how, over the years, groups in Christianity had distorted the truth of this fact.

I mentioned to you that I believe at times in history it was necessary to evaluate certain practices and beliefs that needed correction.  I have no problem with that.  I just want to ensure it needs to be corrected versus some hidden agenda present.

The idea of a torture stake was not even considered as an option until the late 1800s which is interestingly enough, the time when the Jehovah’s Witnesses were first organized.  Few scholars give weight to that option due to common translations, Roman historical practice, and the fact that the plural form of “nails” is used in John 20:25.

So, I researched the identity of the NWT translators and the time of translation.  The translators were an anonymous group who didn’t want to be recognized because they wanted to give glory to God.  It appears that the need arose for a new translation because Jehovah’s Witnesses beliefs were already established and they needed a translation to support that view.  The text comes from the belief rather than the desired alternative when the belief comes from the text.

While the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ own website states that the translation was needed to correct inaccurate readings, it actually proves that some things were changed not because an earlier original manuscript was found but because the Watchtower Society didn’t agree with the teaching.  One of the main reasons cited was to restore the original name of God back into the text.  In actuality, the translation actually adds the name when at times it is not used in the original language.

The Hebrew name for God is YHWH – four consonants only.  Because of a fear of taking the Lord’s name in vain, the Jews avoided using this name, and often used the name Adonai.  Eventually, the vowels from Adonai were included in YHWH to form Yahowah.  Today, this name is often spelled in English, Yahweh.  As a human contrivance, Yahowah mutated to Jehovah in some manuscripts.  Yahweh and Jehovah are considered synonymous, and mean “The LORD.”  In the translations I read, they don’t maintain Yahweh or Jehovah in the name but they put the word “Lord” in all caps so you can see the difference where Yahweh or Adonai is used as seen in Psalm 16:1-2:

Preserve me, O God, for I take refuge in You.
I said to the LORD, “You are my Lord;
I have no good besides You.”

Jehovah’s Witnesses maintain that Jehovah is the correct name for God, and He must be referred to as such.  I have no problem with that, even though they actually admit that Jehovah is wrong: “Yahweh…is admittedly superior to Jehovah. ‘The wrong spelling Jehovah occurs since about 1100’ and then it offers its arguments in favor of Yahweh as the correct and original pronunciation.” Let Your Name Be Sanctified, Jehovah’s Witnesses, p 16-20).  They admit that the only reason they keep using it is to please men: “While inclining to view the pronunciation “Yahweh” as the more correct way, we have retained the form “Jehovah” because of people’s familiarity with it Since the 14th century (New World Translation, Jehovah’s Witnesses, foreword p. 25).

In addition, the name “Jehovah” is included 237 times in the New Testament but that word is a Hebrew name and is not once mentioned in the original Greek text of the New Testament.  It’s not in the original text, but the translators use it 237 times.  That is playing with the original Word of God in the original language.

As I continued to study, I found even more significant changes.  For brevity’s sake (I have already written more than I intended to), let me show some of the glaring ones I have seen thus far.

Genesis 1:1-2 – The Spirit of God vs. God’s Active Force

NASB: In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.  The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters. NWT:  In [the] beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth proved to be formless and waste and there was darkness upon the surface of [the] watery deep; and God’s active force was moving to and fro over the surface of the waters.

Jehovah’s Witnesses reject the doctrine of the Trinity.  As I discussed with you, the doctrine of the Trinity is one of the hardest for my finite mind to wrap around.  But just because it is difficult to explain or difficult to comprehend does not mean that we have the right to change a biblical teaching.

Jehovah’s Witnesses believe in a non-triune God named Jehovah, they believe Jesus is “a god” subordinate to Jehovah, and they reject the notion that the Holy Spirit is a person of the Trinity.  They believe that the Holy Spirit is an extension of Jehovah – an “active force” He sends out.  The Hebrew words here are ruach elohim, which are accurately translated as “Spirit of God.”  Ruach can be translated as “wind” also, but when joined in context with God, it is a reference to the Spirit of God (one Lexicon states, “Spirit of God, the third person of the triune God, the Holy Spirit, coequal, coeternal with the Father and the Son”).

This is the first example I found of the NWT forcing its doctrinal beliefs onto the text of Scripture.  Within the first two verses of the Bible, a Hebrew word has been neglected.  Instead of letting the Bible speak for itself, someone changed the meaning to fit their beliefs within the first two sentences of the entire book.  That’s a red flag for me.

Zechariah 12:10 – Intentional Messianic Shift

NASB: I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplication, so that they will look on Me whom they have pierced; and they will mourn for Him, as one mourns for an only son, and they will weep bitterly over Him like the bitter weeping over a firstborn. NWT: And I will pour out upon the house of David and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem the spirit of favor and entreaties, and they will certainly look to the One whom they pierced through, and they will certainly wail over Him as in the wailing over an only [son]; and there will be a bitter lamentation over him as when there is bitter lamentation over the firstborn [son].

This passage is one of the most descriptive Messianic prophecies in the OT, because God (Yahweh/Jehovah) is speaking in the first person about Him being the one who will be pierced through.

Obviously, Jesus fulfilled this prophecy, and Jehovah’s Witnesses recognize this as well.

So, in order to avoid Jesus being equated with Jehovah, a word was intentionally misinterpreted.

If the original Hebrew is displayed, the implications are clear.  Since this was God’s prophecy about what would happen to Him, and Jesus fulfilled this prophecy, then Jesus must be God.

In fact, in the NWT, the translators correctly show that Zechariah 12:1 indicates these are the “words of Jehovah.”

The NWT translators apparently missed the inclusion in this verse of the Hebrew ayth, which indicates it is a contraction of a word that gives the meaning of “self.”

This is an intentional shift with huge implications.  I do not believe this to be an oversight, this was changed to fit one’s theology and the casual reader of the NWT is not aware of this.

Mathew 14:33 – Worship vs. Obeisance

NASB: And those who were in the boat worshiped Him, saying, “You are certainly God’s Son!” NWT:  Then those in the boat did obeisance to him, saying: “You are really God’s Son.”

Throughout the New Testament, I have read where people worshiped Jesus.  Since worship is an action that should be reserved for God, and the Jehovah’s Witnesses deny the deity of Jesus Christ, the NWT had to rectify these verses. 

The Greek word here is proskuneo.  While this word can be translated as doing obeisance (which is defined as giving reverence or homage), the giveaway is the Watchtower’s inconsistency in translating this word.

In every instance in the New Testament were proskuneo is given to Jesus Christ, it is translated as doing “obeisance.”

Where proskuneo is directed to the Father (“Jehovah” in the NWT – which that actually word is not used in the NT, when the Greek word pater is used, which means “Father,” they translate it as “Jehovah” – see note above), they rightly translate it as “worship” (as in John 4:20).

There are actually 15 times in the New Testament where people proskuneo Jesus and the New World Translation refuses to accept that these people were worshiping him.  Here are a few of the examples from the ESV translation:

  • And he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship him.”  -Matt. 2:8
  • And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. -Matt. 2:11
  • And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.” -Matt. 14:33
  • And behold, Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came up and took hold of his feet and worshiped him. -Matt. 28:9
  • And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted.  -Matt. 28:17
  • And they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy,  -Luke 24:52
  • He said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him.  -John 9:38
  • And again, when he brings the firstborn into the world, he says, “Let all God’s angels worship him.”  -Heb. 1:6

Unfortunately, the NWT does allow proskuneo to describe worship to Satan (Matt. 4:9), demons (Rev. 9:20), angels (Rev. 22:8), idols (Acts 7:43) and other objects, but just not Jesus.

John 1:1 – God vs. a god

NASB:  In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. NWT:  In [the] beginning the Word was, and the Word was with God, and the Word was a god.

Here, every other translation of the Bible reads the same – the Word (logos) was God (theos).

The NWT stands alone in its contention that the Word was a god.  This is to reinforce the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ doctrine that Jesus is not Jehovah, but is simply a subordinate god.

The last Greek phrase in its entirety is theos en ho logos, where ho is a definite article (the).  The Watchtower says that when theos is preceded by the definite article ho, it implies identity or personality.  Since the first use of theos in this verse is preceded by ho, it refers to God.  The second use of theos is not preceded by ho, making it an indefinite description or quality. This is simply wrong thinking.  It’s an important point to make that theos without the definite article ho is used elsewhere in the New Testament in reference to Jehovah God, and is translated appropriately in the NWT (such as in Luke 20:38).  They are inconsistent with this argument, positing the “indefinite quality” assertion only in reference to Jesus.

John 8:58 – I Am vs. I Have Been

NASB:  Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am. NWT:  Jesus said to them: “Most truly I say to YOU, Before Abraham came into existence, I have been.”

There are deep doctrinal implications in the words of Jesus here.

“I am” speaks to his eternality.  It is also the covenantal name of God that He gave to Moses.

Exodus 3:14 says, God said to Moses, “I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’ “

The Greek in John 8:58 is ego eimi, where ego means “I” and eimi is a first person singular present indicative, to “exist”.  The Septuagint provides ego eimi as the Greek words in Exodus 3:14.  The Hebrew word is hayah, which is derived from the same root as Yahweh.

In an attempt to seek distance from Jesus’ claims to eternality or deity, someone intentionally mistranslated this verse.

Acts 20:28 – “Son” Isn’t in This Verse

NASB:  Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. NWT:  Pay attention to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the holy spirit has appointed YOU overseers, to shepherd the congregation of God, which he purchased with the blood of his own [Son].

The change in this verse seeks to deny the deity of Jesus Christ.  The NWT stands alone in their mistranslation of this verse.

The verse speaks of God purchasing the church “with His own blood.”  This is obviously a reference to God the Son, Jesus Christ.

In order to overcome this, a little mistranslation is made to completely change the meaning and deceive the readers.  Not a single Greek manuscript contains the word “son” in this verse.

Colossians 1:16-17 – Adding “Other”

NASB:  For by Him all things were created, {both} in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities–all things have been created through Him and for Him.  He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. NWT:  because by means of him all [other] things were created in the heavens and upon the earth, the things visible and the things invisible, no matter whether they are thrones or lordships or governments or authorities. 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,

This passage speaks clearly toward the deity of Jesus Christ and His role as the Creator of all things, and you presented it to me as proof that Jesus isn’t God.  I’ve always believed it to be a text that supported the view that Jesus is God.

After studying it, I know why we can interpret it so differently.  Where the Watchtower Society is powerless to form an argument from the Greek, they utilized brackets.

In order to deny the deity of Jesus Christ and to support their argument that Jesus was simply the first of God’s creations, they insert the word “other.”

The NWT reads that Jesus, as the first created being, created all “other” things.  Since the Greek word for “other” is not found in the Greek manuscripts, they later felt forced to bracket the word to indicate that they’re inserting a word that does not belong.  This additional word does not help the flow or clarity of the text, but is instead designed to attack the explicit biblical teaching of Christ’s deity and role as Creator.

Greek scholar and theologian Robert Reymond referred to the addition of “other” as “sheer theological perversity…”  As an example of the deceptive practices of the Watchtower Society, the 1950 version of the NWT did not bracket the word “other,” making it appear that it was part of the Greek Text.  Only since 1961, when pressured to do so by Bible scholars, did they add the brackets.

Titus 2:13 – Additional Article Attempting to Deny Deity-Status

NASB:  looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus NWT:  while we wait for the happy hope and glorious manifestation of the great God and of [the] Savior of us, Christ Jesus

The original language of this verse identifies our great God and our Savior Jesus Christ as being one and the same.  The wording of the NWT and the additional bracketed definite article go beyond a disputed positioning of the Greek, and presents an inaccurate translation of Paul’s writing that once again intentionally separates Jesus Christ from His deity.

My Point in All This

I appreciate you.  I am inspired by your conviction.  I do not think you intend to deceive me, but I am worried that someone has deceived you and millions of other Jehovah’s Witnesses with an intentionally inaccurate translation of the Word of God.

I know this is a lot to process, if anything, I am more burdened concerning this than I have ever been before.  Our time together caused me to do some study and what I found was quite alarming.  If I didn’t care about you, I would not have gone to all this trouble of studying Greek and Hebrew to explain this position.

I understand you need to read this over and think through this.  You had also said you were going to take some of this to your leaders.  I would welcome any response or correction of anything that I have presented inaccurately.  Please receive this out of love and concern.

When you left, I told you anything worth believing was worth believing completely.  So, even if this study doesn’t change your beliefs at all, you can walk away even more fully convinced that what you believe is truth.  I am praying that both of us come to the blessed truth of God’s Holy Word.

6 thoughts on “Studying the New World Translation of the Jehovah’s Witnesses”

  1. Wow…this is heavy. I pray that the people who receive this be blessed and their eyes open to the truth.

  2. I would love to know if you received a response and if so, what was it? I have a family member who has been caught up in the JW for many years now and though I try to reach out to her with the truth, she just steps further back for the same truth that you have so passionately shared…. May God continue to bless you as your continue to reach others with the Gospel….

    • Scott, I have yet to hear a response on these questions. They told me that they would take it to their leaders for a response, but I haven’t heard back yet.

  3. Travis, have you ever received a response. I have had a similar dialogue with a young lady who just left from her third visit. This time she brought a new friend, but it was nap time for GG so I couldn’t talk with her. Interested to hear if this received a response.

    • Nope, I never received a response. I was told there was one, but they didn’t have time to get to it. When I emailed them the questions and told them how I would love for some clarification, they never came back. Hope your encounter goes better.

  4. they will never come back/only interested in pre-reheased message from watchtower /why always in 2/they will never investigate,only what difference does it make/they fear shunning as a death sentence for reading your literature/there are 8 million of them giving to watchtower every week for bibles/books./magazines/parking permits/kingdomhall building/leaving all property at death to watchtower/dividing housholds/watchtower says ask no questions of them/just show me the $$$ MONEY/ ARMAGEDDON is JUST AROUND THE CORNER/WHY all the NEW BUILDING in WARICK NEW YORK/LEFT THEM after CHILD MOLESTATION DISCOVERY + UNITED NATIONS membership/30 yr member/NOW FREE /CHRIST IS MY SAVIOR

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