Having recently met two Jehovah’s Witnesses, I was able to see at close quarters the ‘Silver Sword’. This is what the Witnesses affectionately call their Revised New World Translation.
The Witnesses excitedly showed me their new Bible and were keen to tell me of all the helpful additions (research tools, maps and charts) and said that the language had been updated ‘to make it more useful in the ministry’.
It is true that this revised edition is more readable. Many of the words that may have been in common usage in the 1950s, have been replaced so that the NWT is easier to understand for modern readers. Also a word count of the Revised Edition shows a 13% reduction. The reasons for this are twofold.
Firstly, many ‘wordy’ verses have been shortened, but the meaning has not been lost; and numbers like 144,000, which in the older version were spelt out, are now replaced by digits. Secondly, the New World Translation Committee have decided to omit so called ‘spurious’ verses. They have taken out the long and short conclusions of Mark and John 7:53-8:11.*
As I looked at the Bible online, I naturally went to verses that I use often when speaking to the Witnesses, and I found some changes. For example, the Witnesses often cite Colossians 1:15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation’ in support of their ‘Jesus was created’ doctrine. This verse has remained unchanged but the preceding verses show a change:
‘because by means of him all other things were created in the heavens and on the earth, the things visible and the things invisible, 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, and he is the head of the body, the congregation. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might become the one who is first in all things; because God was pleased to have all fullness to dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all other things by making peace through the blood he shed on the torture stake, whether the things on the earth or the things in the heavens.’ Colossians 1:16-20 NWT (Revised 2013) (Bold mine)
The change here is not the addition of the word ‘other’, they added that word in the older translation, but rather the brackets have been removed from around the word ‘other’. In the old translation the brackets showed that the word ‘other’ was an addition. The Witness argument was that the word ‘other’ was added to help clarify the passage! With the brackets now removed it is made to seem that the word ‘other’ should be there, that one would find it in the Greek text. This is not a problem for those in the ‘know’, who can ask the Witness to check their Kingdom Interlinear to see that the word ‘other’ is not there; but to unsuspecting ones this is plain deception and an adding to Scripture.
A surprising change is their rendering of John 17:3, which used to say:
This means everlasting life, their taking in knowledge of you, the only true God, and the one whom you sent, Jesus Christ.
this has now become…
This means everlasting life, their coming to know you*, the only true God, and the one whom you sent, Jesus Christ.
Perhaps The Watchtower was fed up of people pointing out to them that there is a vast difference between having knowledge of someone and knowing someone. But note their reluctance to change it completely. There is a footnote which says ‘Or “their taking in knowledge of you.”.
The following is a very good video review of the New World Translation (Revised 2013) which shows other changes, including the addition of term ‘governing body’ in the outline for Acts 15, just before the command to ‘abstain from blood’.
The ‘Revised’ New World Translation is definitely a better ministry tool in the hands of the Jehovah’s Witness, but to those reaching out to this group there is nothing new to be concerned about. The same questions remain for the honest Jehovah’s Witness:
Who translated your Bible? How do you know it is a reliable and honest translation? Why have the translator’s added the name Jehovah 237 times in the Christian Greek Scriptures, when the name appears nowhere in the Greek?
The revised edition is available to read online at http://www.jw.org/en/publications/bible/