EWTN Catholic Q&A
Comments of Scholars on the New World Translation
Question from Michael on 08-12-2001:

Comments from Bible Scholars on the Bible translation: “The New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures” published by Jehovah’s Witnesses.

J.D. PHILLIPS: (J.D. Phillips was a Church of Christ Minister, schooled in the original tongues). "Last week I purchased a copy of your New World Translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures of which I take pride in being an owner. You have done a marvelous work...I was happy, indeed, to see the name Jehovah in it. But you have made a marvelous step in the right direction, and I pray God that your Version will be used to His glory. What you have done for the Name alone is worth all the effort and cost!"

ALLEN WIKGREN: (Allen Wikgren was on the New Revised Standard Version committee, as well as on the committee which produced the UBS Greek text). "Independent readings of merit often occur in other modern speech versions, such as...the Jehovah's Witnesses edition of the New Testament(1950)." (The Interpreter's Bible, 1952 Vol. 1 page 99) BENJAMIN KEDAR: (Benjamin Kedar is a professor of Hebrew in Israel). "In my linguistic research in connection with the Hebrew Bible and translations, I often refer to the English edition of what is known as the New World Translation. In so doing, I find my feeling repeatedly confirmed that this work reflects an honest endeavor to achieve an understanding of the text that is as accurate as possible. Giving evidence of a broad command of the original language, it renders the original words into a second language understandably without deviating unnecessarily from the specific structure of the Hebrew...Every statement of language allows for a certain latitude in interpreting or translation. So the linguistic solution in any given case may be open to debate. But I have never discovered in the New World Translation any biased intent to read something into the text that it does not contain." S. MACLEAN GILMORE: "In 1950 the Jehovah's Witnesses published their New World Translation of the New Testament, and the preparation of the New World Old Testament is now far advanced. The New Testament edition was made by a committee...that possessed an unusual competence in Greek." (The Andover Newton Quarterly, September 1966, Vol 7, #1 page 25, 26) C. HOUTMAN: Mr. Houtman notes that on the point of translator bias "the New World Translation of the Jehovah's Witnesses can survive the scrutiny of criticism." (Nederlands Theologisch Tijdschrift, [Dutch Theological Magazines] 38 1984, page 279-280)

WILLIAM CAREY TAYLOR: (William C. Taylor was a Southern Baptist Minister schooled in the original tongues). "Just when the infidel universities of this land thought they had laughed out of court the very name Jehovah, up...surges.. "Jehovah's Witnesses". ...And with considerable scholarship they get out their own New Testament and lo and behold, they put Jehovah into the New Testament two or three hundred times...It ought to be there [in the entire Bible] many times" (The New Bible Pro and Con, 1955 Page 75)

C. HOUTMAN: Mr. Houtman notes that on the point of translator bias "the New World Translation of the Jehovah's Witnesses can survive the scrutiny of criticism." Nederlands Theologisch Tijdschrift, [Dutch Theological Magazines] 38 1984, page 279-280

CHARLES FRANCIS POTTER: "the New World Translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures...the anonymous translators have certainly rendered the best manuscript texts...with scholarly ability and acumen." (The Faith Men Live By, 1954, Page 239)

EDGAR J. GOODSPEED: (Edgar J. Goodspeed was a Professor of Greek at the University of Chicago, and also translated the New Testament portion of "The Bible an American Translation"). "I am...much pleased with the free, frank and vigorous translation. It exhibits a vast array of sound serious learning, as I can testify." (Personal Letter to Arthur Goux of Brooklyn Bethel, December 8, 1950; See also Watchtower September 1, 1952 page 541, where Goodspeed is quoted as stating that the New World Translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures was "an interesting and scholarly work" )

ROBERT M. MCCOY: "The translation of the New Testament is evidence of the presence in the movement of scholars qualified to deal intelligently with the many problems of Biblical translation." (The Andover Newton Quarterly, January 1963, Vol. 3, #3, Page 31)

STEVEN T. BYINGTON: (Steven T. Byington translated the version known as "The Bible in Living English"). "If you are digging for excellent or suggestive renderings this is among the richer mines." (Christian Century, "Review of the New World Translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures, November 1, 1950 page 1296)

JASON BEDUHN: (Jason Beduhn teaches at the University of Indiana). "I have just recently completed teaching a course for the Religious Studies Department of Indiana University, Bloomington, ...This is primarily a course in the Gospels. Your help came in the form of copies of the Kingdom Interlinear Translation of the Greek Scriptures which my students used as one of the textbooks for the class. These small volumes were invaluable to the course and very popular with my students...Simply put, it is the best interlinear New Testament available. I am a trained scholar of the Bible, familiar with the texts and tools in use in modern biblical studies, and by the way, not a member of the Jehovah's Witnesses. But I know a quality publication when I see one, and your 'New World Bible Translation Committee' has done its job well. Your interlinear English rendering is accurate and consistent to an extreme that forces the reader to come to terms with the linguistic, cultural, and conceptual gaps between the Greek-speaking world and our own. Your 'New World Translation' is a high quality, literal translation that avoids traditional glosses in its faithfulness to the Greek. It is, in many ways, superior to the most successful translations in use today." The Harper Collins Bible Dictionary calls it one of the "major translations of the Bible into English," along with the Knox translation, the Jerusalem Bible, New American Bible and the New English Bible. p. 292 ALEXANDER THOMPSON: "The translation is evidently the work of skilled and clever scholars, who have sought to bring out as much of the true sense of the Greek text as the English language is capable of expressing." (The Differentiator, April 1952, Page 52)

EDGAR FOSTER: (Classics Major, Lenoir-Rhyne College) "Before I formally began to study Greek, I simply compared the NWT with lexicons, commentaries, and other translations to try and determine it's accuracy. It passed the litmus test then and it also passes the test now for me...The NWT is a fine translation. In my mind, it is the translation _par excellence_. But I feel just as confortable with an RSV or an NASB. Mostly I prefer my UBS Greek text." THOMAS N. WINTER: (Thomas N. Winter taught Greek at the University of Nebraska). "I think it is a legitimate and highly useful aid toward the mastery of koine (and classical) Greek. After examining a copy, I equipped several interested second-year Greek students with it as an auxiliary test. After learning the proper pronunciations, a motivated student could probably learn koine from this source alone. ...the translation by the anonymous committee is thoroughly up to date and consistently accurate. ...In sum, when a witness comes to the door, the classicist, Greek student, or Bible student alike would do well to place an order." (The Classical Journal, "The Kingdom Interlinear", April-May 1974, pages 375, 376) See Also: "Bible Translation how to choose between them" by Alan S. Duthie,(Alan S. Dunthie is a professor at the University of Legon), Page103. Comments by Dr. Rijkel ten Kate

Answer by Fr. John Echert on 08-12-2001:

Michael:

Allow me to quote from one of several Protestant sites which identify some notable scholars who disagree with the assessments of those you cite:

"Numerous qualified Greek scholars of international renown have voiced serious reservations about the New World Translation. Dr. Bruce Metzger of Princeton University (arguably the world’s foremost living Greek scholar) calls many of the New World Translation’s renderings “erroneous" (5). Dr. Julius R. Mantey (co-author of A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament and A Hellenistic Greek Reader) called it “a shocking mistranslation”(6). Dr Robert Countess concluded, in his PhD dissertation on the New World Translation, “it [the New World Translation] must be viewed as a radically biased piece of work. At some points it is actually dishonest" (7)."

Of course, we could go on for some time exchanging posts and quoting "scholars" who defend or reject the Jehovah Witness version of the Bible--the New World Translation. Fortunately, for Catholics this is a non-issue, as it should be for all who regard themselves as Christian. Perhaps the best site among three which I have discovered which examines and compares the NWT with Protestant versions can be found at:

http://www.spiritwatch.org/jwnwt.htm

As I noted earlier, I do not guarantee everything on this site is accurate, but offer it for those interested.

Father Echert



COPYRIGHT 2002

www.ewtn.com