[From ws12/15 p. 9 for February 8-14]
“The word of God is alive.” – He 4:12
One laudable feature of the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures (NWT) is its restoration of God’s name to its rightful place. Many other translations substitute LORD where the Tetragrammaton is found in the original.
Paragraph 5 lays down the principle that continues to guide the New World Translation committee[i] to this day.
Why is the inclusion or omission of God’s name significant? A skilled translator knows the importance of understanding the intent of an author; such knowledge affects many translation decisions. Countless Bible verses show the importance of God’s name and its sanctification. (Ex. 3:15; Ps. 83:18; 148:13; Isa. 42:8; 43:10; John 17:6, 26; Acts 15:14) Jehovah God—the Author of the Bible—inspired its writers to use his name freely. (Read Ezekiel 38:23.) Omitting the name, found thousands of times in ancient manuscripts, shows disrespect for the Author.
Let us examine the first boldfaced section. It is true that a translator is greatly aided by understanding the intent of the author. I worked as a professional translator as a young man and often found that a phrase or even a word in the original language carried an ambiguity that was not carried over into English. In such cases, I had to choose between two different words and knowing the author’s intent was crucial in deciding which to use. Of course, I usually had the benefit of having the author at hand, so I could ask him, but a Bible translator does not enjoy that advantage. So it is misleading to say, that “such knowledge affects many translation decisions.” It is not knowledge when you cannot ask the author what he means. It is conjecture, belief, perhaps deductive reasoning, but knowledge? No! Such a statement presupposes a level of understanding that can only come by divine revelation, and the translation committee hardly possesses that.
The second boldface section seems to be axiomatic, though I’m sure those who support the removal of the divine name from Bible translations would disagree. Nevertheless, I doubt that most of us would have a problem with it. It is how it is used in the article that presents the problem. To explain, have a look at the question for the next paragraph.
“Why does the revised New World Translation have six additional occurrences of the divine name?”
The eight million Witnesses studying this article are sure to assume from this that only six new occurrences are in question, while all the other 7,200 occurrences are the result of not “omitting the name, found thousands of times in ancient manuscripts”. Thus, my JW brethren will continue under the misconception that the more than 200 insertions of the divine name in the Christian Scriptures are the result of finding ancient manuscripts that include it. This is not the case. There are over 5,000 manuscripts and manuscript fragments of these Scriptures in existence today and not one—let’s repeat that for clarity—not one includes the divine name.
Paragraph 7 states that “appendix of the 2013 revision of the New World Translation contains updated information on” the significance of the divine name. What it doesn’t state is that all the “J” references found in Appendix 1D of the previous edition have been removed. Without these references, a Bible student using the new translation will simply believe that every time the name Jehovah appears in the Christian Scriptures, it is there in the original manuscript. However, if he goes back to the old version and looks up the now-removed “J” references, he will see that every occurrence is based on someone else’s translation, not an original manuscript copy.
The process of changing a translation to read differently than it does in the original is called “conjectural emendation.” This means that the translator is amending or changing the text based on conjecture. Is there ever a valid reason for adding or subtracting from God’s word based on conjecture? If this is really deemed as necessary, wouldn’t the honest thing be to let the reader know we are making a change based on conjecture and not lead him to believe that we have special knowledge of what the author (God) intends and/or imply that there is no conjecture at all, but that the translation is of something actually found in the original?
However, let us not blame the committee. They have to get approval for all these things as stated in paragraphs 10, 11, and 12. This approval comes from the Governing Body. They have a zeal for God’s name, but not according to accurate knowledge. (Ro 10:1-3) Here is what they overlook:
Jehovah is the almighty God. Despite the best efforts of the Devil, Jehovah has preserved his name in ancient manuscripts that predate Christianity. The first Bible books were written 1,500 years before Christ walked the earth. If he could preserve his name thousands of times in manuscripts that were ancient in Jesus’ time, why could he not do the same for those that are more recent? Are we to believe that Jehovah couldn’t preserve his name in even one of the 5,000+ manuscripts available to us today?
The zeal of the translators to “restore” the divine name appears to be actually working against God. His name is important. There is no question about that. For this reason, why he has revealed it over 6,000 times in the pre-Christian Scriptures. But when Christ came, Jehovah wanted to reveal something else. His name, Yes! But in a different way. When Messiah arrived, it was time for a new, expanded revelation of God’s name.
This may sound odd to a modern ear, because we view a name as a mere appellation, a label—a means to distinguish person A from person B. Not so in the ancient world. It was not the actual name, the Tetragrammaton, that was unknown. It was the character, the person of God, that men did not grasp. Moses and the Israelites knew the Tetragrammaton and how to pronounce it, but they didn’t know the person behind it. That is why Moses asked what God’s name was. He wanted to know who was sending him on this mission, and he knew his brothers would want to know that as well. (Ex 3:13-15)
Jesus came to make God’s name known in a way that had never occurred before. Humans ate with Jesus, walked with Jesus, talked with Jesus. They observed him—his conduct, his thought processes, his emotions—and came to understand his personality. Through him, they—and we—came to know God as was never possible before. (John 1:14, 16; 14:9) To what end? That we might call God, Father! (John 1:12)
If we look at the prayers of faithful men recorded in the Hebrew Scriptures, we do not see them referring to Jehovah as their Father. Yet Jesus gave us the model prayer and taught us to pray this way: “Our Father in the heavens…” We take this for granted today, but this was radical stuff in his day. One did not risk calling oneself a child of God unless one be taken for a presumptuous blasphemer and stoned. (John 10:31-36)
It is noteworthy that the NWT began to be translated only after Rutherford came out with his antitypical teaching that the other sheep of John 10:16 were not God’s children. What child calls his father by his given name? The JW Other Sheep call Jehovah by name in a prayer. We open the prayer with “Our Father”, but then revert back to a repetitious recitation of the divine name. I’ve heard the name used over a dozen times in a single prayer. It is treated almost as if it were a talisman.
What meaning would Romans 8:15 have were we to cry out “Abba, Jehovah” instead of “Abba, Father”?
It appears that the goal of the translation committee was to give the JW Other Sheep a Bible all their own. It is a translation for people who consider themselves God’s friends, not his children.
This new translation is intended to make us feel special, a privileged people out of all the world. Notice the caption on page 13:
“What a privilege to have Jehovah speak to us in our own language!”
This self-congratulatory quotation is there to instill in the reader the idea that this new translation comes right from our God. We would not say anything like this about any of the other excellent modern translations available to us today. Sadly, our brothers do view the latest version of the NWT as a “must use”. I’ve heard friends tell how they were criticized for using the older version of the NWT. Imagine what would happen if you went from door-to-door using another version altogether, the King James or the New International Version.
Truly, the brothers have bought into the idea carried by the page 13 caption. They believe that Jehovah is speaking to us through this new translation. With that view, there is no room for the idea that maybe some of the texts are poorly translated or that some bias might have crept in.
[i] While the members of the original committee were kept secret, the general feeling is that Fred Franz did almost all the translation, with others serving as proofreaders. There is no evidence that the current committee includes any Bible or ancient language scholars and it is believed to be largely a work of revision rather than translation. All non-English versions are translated from the English and not form the original tongues of Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic.