Examining the Positive & Negative Qualities
Of Various Versions & Translations
Of God's Holy Scriptures

A Critical Analysis

by Al Maxey


The New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures is a version of the Bible which was prepared specifically by and for the Jehovah's Witnesses. Previously, they had made use of the King James Version, the American Standard Version of 1901, and the Emphatic Diaglott, which is a Greek-English interlinear containing an English translation done by Benjamin Wilson.

The NWT was prepared and circulated by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society. It was translated from the original Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek manuscripts by a group of scholars who "wish to remain anonymous even after death." In the Foreword to the NWT the translators write, "It is a very responsible thing to translate the Holy Scriptures from their original languages of Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek into modern speech. The translators of this work, who fear and love the Divine Author of the Holy Scriptures, feel toward Him a special responsibility to transmit His thoughts and declarations as accurately as possible."

The New Testament was completed and published in 1950. The Old Testament was issued periodically in five sections. The entire Bible was completed and published in a single volume in 1961. It has undergone several revisions, the most recent being in 1984.

The NWT is an example of what scholars refer to as a Tendentious Translation (i.e.: one which fosters the distinctive views of a particular sect .... in this case: the Jehovah's Witnesses). "It is marred throughout by its very obvious bias in favor of the peculiar doctrines of the sect which produced it" (The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, Vol. 1, p. 580). "This version (in many cases a perversion) demonstrates several attempts to support so-called 'Jehovah Witness' doctrine through erroneous translating and biased wording. Their translation is a biased translation of the Bible published to prove the peculiar teachings of the Watchtower Society, which they cannot prove by reference to the standard translations" (an excerpt from a tract entitled The NWT Does Not Uniformly Teach Jehovah's Witness' Doctrine, by Garland Elkins, 1977).

The NWT has been published in several major languages (Danish, Dutch, English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese, Spanish, Finnish, and Swedish). As of 1986, more than 48 million copies had been sold worldwide. They also make their Bible available to the public at very little cost. For example, their Deluxe Edition, which has a soft leather cover and gilt-edged pages, sells for only $7.


The NWT is not a revision of any previous version or translation of the Bible, but is a completely new translation from the original languages. In a great many places, where it has not obviously mistranslated the Scriptures to promote its own views, it has done an excellent job of capturing and conveying the meaning of the original text. It has made an effort to show the fine distinctions in verb forms of the Greek language, something which few other translations have even attempted!

It also makes a distinction between the singular and plural in the 2nd person personal pronoun: "you" is singular, and "YOU" is plural. In English, the word "you" is both singular and plural; in Greek, however, there is a clear distinction. The NWT has used this method to try and preserve this distinction.

Like several of the newer translations on the market (including the RSV and NIV), the NWT is printed in paragraphs, or "thought units," rather than in individual verses. Many feel this makes for clearer reading and better understanding. The NWT also abandons the archaic language of some of the older versions (like the KJV). "You" is used throughout the text, instead of "Thou," even in prayers or when referring directly to God.

The NWT also follows a practice (fairly common in newer translations) of indicating passages where there may be textual problems. It is also "one of the rare translations into any language which has rendered the Hebrew word 'Almah' consistently in all of its seven occurrences in the Old Testament" (Dr. Jack P. Lewis). The NWT translates this Hebrew word as "maiden" rather than "virgin."

The NWT also uses the words "Gehenna," "Hades," and "Tartarus" (instead of translating all three as "hell," as the KJV does), thus preserving the distinction between these three concepts in the original text of the Scriptures. In Luke 23:43 the NWT is punctuated to read, "Truly I tell you today, You will be with me in Paradise." By placing the comma after the word "today," instead of before it (as in most translations), the NWT has helped clear up a misunderstanding concerning the so-called "intermediate state" of the dead.


#1 --- The Jehovah's Witnesses deny that God has established different covenants or testaments for His people. Thus, they oppose the idea of an "old" covenant (testament) and a "new" one. Much of their teachings are still based in the writings which we call the "Old Testament," for the simple reason that they do not believe it has been replaced (or fulfilled) by a new covenant (testament). For this reason, they refuse to designate the two sections of the Bible as the "Old Testament" and the "New Testament." Instead, they refer to them as "The Hebrew-Aramaic Scriptures" and "The Christian Greek Scriptures." It's interesting to note, however, that they have failed to be consistent in this stand even in their own translation. In II Corinthians 3:14 the NWT speaks of "reading the old covenant." "New covenant" and "former covenant" both appear in Hebrews 9:15, and "mediator of a new covenant" appears in Hebrews 12:24, just to cite a few examples.

#2 --- Even though the Jehovah's Witnesses acknowledge that the word "Jehovah" is a mispronunciation of the Tetragrammaton (meaning "having four letters" -- a reference to YHWH), they nevertheless insist that this is God's true name and that it should be used exclusively. Insisting that the original Scriptures have been "tampered with" in regard to the Divine name, they use only the name "Jehovah" in both the OT and NT. "YHWH" appears 6828 times in the OT, but in the NWT the word "Jehovah" appears 6973 (an additional 145 occurrences). "YHWH" never appears in the NT, and yet the NWT uses "Jehovah" 237 times in the NT.

#3 --- With regard to the concept of the Trinity, the Jehovah's Witnesses do not believe that the Holy Spirit is a person/being. In their notes, which appear at the end of the NWT, they write, "The holy spirit is not a person in heaven with God and Christ" ...... "it is an active force, not a person." As a result of their belief that it is just an "energy from God," and not a divine being, the words "holy spirit" are never capitalized in the NWT.

#4 --- The Jehovah's Witnesses also do not believe in the deity of Jesus Christ. They teach "the son of God was created, and only Jehovah was pre-existent." They further write, "The son in inferior to the Father both before and after coming to earth." God and Christ are "one" only in the sense of husbands and wives being said to be "one." They are "always in complete harmony," but certainly not equal! This belief has found its way into the NWT in several places.

  1. In Colossians 1:16-17 the word "other" has been added to the text a total of four times to imply that Jesus was just one among many "other" created things.

  2. In Titus 2:13 the NWT reads, "we wait for the happy hope and glorious manifestation of the great God and of the Savior of us, Christ Jesus." II Peter 1:1 reads, "the righteousness of our God and the Savior Jesus Christ." In both of these passages the definite article "the" has been added to the text to make a separation between God and Jesus. In point of fact, the text literally speaks of Jesus as being "our God and Savior." The JW's do not believe Jesus is the former, and thus seek to make a distinction between the two.

  3. John1:1 reads, in the NWT, "In the beginning the Word was, and the Word was with God, and the Word was a god." Vs. 14 says that Jesus was "full of undeserved kindness and truth." This clearly teaches polytheism; Jesus and God are not one, but Jesus is merely "a god," upon whom the God (Jehovah) has bestowed undeserved favor!!

#5 --- In the NWT the "cross" is referred to as a "torture stake" (Matthew 10:38; 27:32), and rather than being "crucified" on it, the NWT says Jesus was "impaled" upon a stake (Luke 23:21 ..... "Then they began to yell, saying, 'Impale him! Impale him!'").


H.H. Rowley, in Expository Times, entitled his review of the NWT: "How NOT To Translate The Bible." This pretty well sums it up! Even though it does have some good qualities, yet "it is unsuited for the use of people who want to know what the Bible really teaches" (Dr. Jack P. Lewis).

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