Podcast: Play in new window | Download (Duration: 12:25 — 9.7MB) | Embed
Subscribe: Apple Podcasts | Google Podcasts | RSS | More
In 2003 Jason David Beduhn, at the time an Associate Professor of Religious Studies at Northern Arizona University, released a book called Truth in Translation: Accuracy and Bias in English Translations of the New Testament.
In the book, Professor Beduhn analysed nine words and verses (often disputed and controversial around Trinitarian doctrine) across nine English translations of the Bible. At the end of the process, he rated the NWT as the best and the Catholic NAB as the second best with the least bias from the translating team. He explains why it worked out this way with supporting reasons. He further qualifies this by stating that other verses could have been analysed and a different outcome might have been reached. Professor Beduhn clearly makes the point that it is NOT a definitive ranking as there are a set of criteria that needs to be considered. Interestingly, when he teaches NT Greek to his undergraduate students, he uses the Kingdom Interlinear (KIT) as he highly rates the interlinear part.
The book is very readable and fair in its treating of the translation points. One cannot determine his faith position when reading his arguments. His style of writing is not confrontational and invites the reader to examine the evidence and to draw conclusions. In my personal opinion this book is an excellent piece of work.
Professor Beduhn then provides an entire chapter discussing the NWT practice of inserting the Divine Name in the NT. He carefully and politely demonstrates why this is a theologically biased approach and breaches guidelines for good translating. In this chapter, he criticises all the translations that translate the Tetragrammaton (YHWH) as LORD. He is also critical of the NWT for inserting Jehovah into the New Testament when it does not appear in ANY of the extant manuscripts. In pages 171 paragraphs 3 and 4, he explains the process and the associated problems with this practice. The paragraphs are reproduced in full below (italics for emphasis in original):
“When all the manuscripts evidence agrees, it takes very strong reasons to suggest that the original autographs (the very first manuscripts of a book written by the author himself) read differently. To suggest such a reading not supported by the manuscript evidence is called making a conjectural emendation. It is an emendation because you are repairing, “mending,” a text you believe is defective. It is conjectural because it is a hypothesis, a “conjecture” that can only be proven if at some future time evidence is found that supports it. Until that time, it is by definition unproven.
The editors of the NW are making conjectural emendation when they replace kurios, which would be translated “Lord”, with “Jehovah”. In an appendix to the NW, they state that their restoration of “Jehovah” in the New Testament is based upon (1) a supposition concerning how Jesus and his disciples would have handled the divine name, (2) the evidence of the “J texts” and (3) the necessity of consistency between the Old and New Testaments. These are three different reasons for the editorial decision. The first two may be handled here quite briefly, while the third requires more detailed examination.”
The position of Professor Beduhn is absolutely clear. In the rest of the chapter, he dismantles the arguments put forward by the NWT editors for the insertion of the name. In fact, he is adamant that the role of the translator should not be to repair the text. Any such activity should be confined to the footnotes.
Now the rest of this article is inviting the readers to make a decision on the new Appendix C added to the New Study Edition of the revised NWT 2013.
Making Informed Decisions
In the new Study Edition Bible post-2013 revision, Appendix C tries to justify the reason for adding the name. There are currently 4 sections C1 to C4. In C1, titled “The Restoration Of The Divine Name In The “New Testament,”” reasons are given for the practice. At the end of paragraph 4 there is a footnote and it quotes (red text added for emphasis and the rest of the paragraph can be seen in red later) Professor Beduhn’s work from the same chapter and the last paragraph of the chapter in page 178 and it states:
“A number of scholars, however, strongly disagree with this viewpoint. One of these is Jason BeDuhn, who authored the book Truth in Translation: Accuracy and Bias in English Translations of the New Testament. Yet, even BeDuhn acknowledges: “It may be that some day a Greek manuscript of some portion of the New Testament will be found, let’s say a particularly early one, that has the Hebrew letters YHWH in some of the verses [of the “New Testament.”] When that happens, when evidence is at hand, biblical researchers will have to give due consideration to the views held by the NW [New World Translation] editors.””
On reading this quote, the impression is gained that Professor Beduhn accepts or holds out hope for the insertion of the Divine Name. It is always good to include the entire quote and here I have reproduced not just the rest of the paragraph (in red below) but the three preceding paragraphs in page 177. I have taken the liberty to highlight key statements (in blue font) by Professor Beduhn that shows he sees this insertion as incorrect.
Every single translation that we have compared deviates from the biblical text, one way or another, in the “Jehovah”/”Lord” passages of the Old and New Testament. Past efforts by some translations, such as the Jerusalem Bible and the New English Bible, to follow the text accurately in these passages, have not been well-received by the uninformed public conditioned by the KJV. But popular opinion is not a valid regulator of biblical accuracy. We must adhere to the standards of accurate translation, and we must apply those standards equally to all. lf by those standards we say that the NW should not substitute “Jehovah” for “Lord” in the New Testament, then by those same standards we must say that the KJV, NASB, NIV, NRSV, NAB, AB, LB, and TEV should not substitute “Lord” for “Jehovah” or “Yahweh” in the Old Testament.
The zeal of the NW editors to restore and preserve the name of God against an obvious trend towards expunging it in modern translations of the Bible, while comendable (sic) in itself, has carried them too far, and into a harmonizing practice of their own. I personally do not agree with that practice and think that identifications of “Lord” with “Jehovah” should be placed in footnotes. At the very least, use of “Jehovah” should be confined in the NW New Testament to the seventy-eight occasions where an Old Testament passage containing “Jehovah” is being quoted. I leave it to the NW editors to resolve the problem of the three verses where their principle of “emendation” does not seem to work.
Most of the New Testament authors were Jews by birth and heritage, and all belonged to a Christianity still closely tied to its Jewish roots. While Christianity went on to distance itself from its Jewish mother, and to universalize its mission and its rhetoric, it is important to remember how much the New Testament thought-world is a Jewish one, and how much the authors build on Old Testament antecedents in their thought and expression. It is one of the dangers of modernizing and paraphrasing translations that they tend to strip away the distinct references to the culture that produced the New Testament. The God of the New Testament writers is the Jehovah (YHWH) of the Jewish biblical tradition, however much re-characterized in Jesus’ representation of him. The name of Jesus himself incorporates this name of God. These facts remain true, even if the New Testament authors communicate them in language that avoids, for whatever reason, the personal name Jehovah.
(Now we come to the section quoted in the Study Bible. Please see the rest of the paragraph in red.)
It may be that some day a Greek manuscript of some portion of the New Testament will be found, let’s say a particularly early one, that has the Hebrew letters YHWH in some of the verses listed above. When that happens, when evidence is at hand, biblical researchers will have to give due consideration to the views held by the NW editors. Until that day, translators must follow the manuscript tradition as it is currently known, even if some of the characteristics appear to us puzzling, perhaps even inconsistent with what we believe. Anything translators want to add to clarify the meaning of ambiguous passages, such as those where “Lord” might refer to either God or the Son of God, can and should be put into footnotes, while keeping the Bible itself in the words given to us.
In a recent monthly Broadcast (November/December 2017) David Splane of the Governing Body talked at great length on the importance for accuracy and meticulous research in all the information put out in the literature and audio/visual media. Clearly this quote gets an “F” for fail.
This use of a quote that misleads the reader from the original view of the writer is intellectually dishonest. It is exacerbated in this case, because Professor Beduhn rated the NWT as the best translation with regards to the nine words or verses against the nine other translations he reviewed. This flags a lack of humility because it betrays a mindset that cannot accept correction or an alternative perspective. The Organization could choose to disagree with his analysis for inserting the Divine Name, but why misuse his words to give a wrong impression?
All of this is symptomatic of a leadership which is out of touch with the realities of the world faced by most of the brothers and sisters. It is also a failure to realise that all quotes and references can be easily accessed by all in this information age.
This results in a breakdown of trust, demonstrates a lack of integrity and a refusal to reflect on a teaching that might be flawed. It is not something any of us who belong to the Christ experience from him or our Heavenly Father. Father and Son have our loyalty and obedience because of their meekness, humility and honesty. This cannot be given to men who are proud, dishonest and deceptive. We implore and pray that they mend their ways and learn from Jesus all the necessary qualities to be a footstep follower.
 These verses or words are in Chapter 4: proskuneo, Chapter 5: Philippians 2:5-11, Chapter 6: the word man, Chapter 7: Colossians 1:15-16, Chapter 8: Titus 2:13, Chapter 9: Hebrews 1:8, Chapter 10: John 8:58, Chapter 11: John 1:1, Chapter 12: How to write holy spirit, in capital or lowercase letters.
 These are King James Version (KJV), New Revised Standard Version (NRSV), New International Version (NIV), New American Bible (NAB), New American Standard Bible (NASB), Amplified Bible (AB), Living Bible (LB), Today’s English Version (TEV) and the New World Translation (NWT). These are a mix of Protestant, Evangelical, Catholic and Jehovah’s Witnesses.
 See Appendix “The Use of Jehovah in the NW” pages 169-181.
Thank you Eleasar for the work and research , I do like the emphasised text in red and blue, and thank you so much for including the whole quotes.
I would like to ask yourself and the rest of us here, what is a good study bible to purchase?I have looked at a ESV Thompson chain reference and MacArthur have a very impressive ESV study bible with extensive notes , illustrations and commentary, could you or others here expound on where or what translation to look for ?
Thank you all
Hi Wild Olive, I think it is good to use a range of translations. One of the challenges is in acknowledging all translations have some level of bias. An interesting thought based on “Truth in Translation” is that most main streams translations have a bias towards the trinity doctrine. A simple example is leaving the divine name out of the OT. I personally prefer to use a “formal equivalence” translation which the ESV falls into. I use the ESV, Good News, Common Jewish Bible, New Jerusalem Bible and NWT. I think the NWT is a good translation once you understand… Read more »
Thanks Eleasar, much appreciate your thoughts , I also use the ESV and find it helpful, it preserves some older English words which are important, for instance the word iniquity, many translations, including the NWT translate it as error or transgression, this in no way captures what iniquity means. When I come across a passage that Ime not sure about I use a NLT, that’s one of those dynamic equivalence translations, that puts me in the picture, then I go to the formal equivalence to get the details, and then check the cross references in the NWT,and yes your right… Read more »
I love the thought, “We implore and pray that they mend their ways and learn from Jesus all the necessary qualities to be a footstep follower.” As humble Christians, we should pray for the mercy be upon these men. Perhaps we may not pray for the one’s who have passed in death, for our Father is a “God of the living.” As Job had to pray for his “false comforters,” we too, in a spirit of sincerity and love for God, should pray regularly for the mercy of God to be with the leadership of the organization. They, no doubt,… Read more »
To understand Moses’ words, we have to understand the way Hebrews viewed “a name”. It was more than a simple appellation or label, as it usually is today. The word for “name” in Hebrew is linked to the word for “character”. A person’s name and his reputation were seen as one and the same thing. There is an interesting analysis of this in this video.
Hi IHB, A long time ago, I studied this in some depth. From memory and not looking through the research notes, in verse 14 eyeh asher eyeh is Jehovah describing himself. The context is that Jehovah would reveal himself in dealing with his covenant people and how he would be revealed. At the time the issue in English was translating it as “I am who I am” when it was in the imperfect tense and the this translation was a KJV hangover (there are quite a few of these but most people think kjv was the language of God, reminds… Read more »
Good points, and research. My conclusion? In the end, even if the name “Jehovah” is found in newly discovered manuscript(s), it changes nothing. Why so? For two reasons. First, it is clear that the writer’s of the NT placed strong emphasis on “Father,” as did Jesus (i.e. the model prayer). Second, it is a matter of faith that leads us to believe that we have what our Father desired us to have. Currently, by the NWT translator’s assuming that through some superstitious ideas of ancient scribes to insert the divine name Jehovah, thus alleviating it from the NT, they must… Read more »
Hi Rusticshore, Good point on preserving his word. The other issue never pointed out is the following: 1. Let us assume that by 100 CE all the manuscripts were in play and the original autographs were still in play and in any copied autographs the Divine Name appeared. 2. The Apostles have all passed on. 3. From 101 CE onward, who and when did the practice of expunging the Name begin? Since the Jews were fiercely opposed to the Christians, why would Christians choose to adopt a Jewish custom of not saying the Name? 4. Assuming a copy lasts 10… Read more »
Thank you Eleasar for your hard work on this topic! Not many who read the Bible think about all the details and the difficulties in translating the Bible from the limited amount of ancient Manuscripts available, or for that matter when the translators are applying Exegesis or as is the case with Jehovah’s Witnesses Eisegesis! To be honest it is all too confusing for most including myself and when considering this issue the question I default to is WHY would Jehovah and his Son The Word, allow such confusion in the book inspired by Holy Spirit and preserved down to… Read more »
Hey gogetter. Don’t despair…and you’re not ranting, you’re just still in the awakening process. You’re gonna have a lot of questions. It takes time for the answers to become clearer if you’re able to show patience and not let go of your faith in a Creator. Faith in a religion, as we’ve all found out is misplaced. Faith in our Creator and his son isn’t. To keep that faith intact, it’s necessary to avoid the plague of atheism/agnosticism and/or our hurt feelings that imperfectly generate resentment towards our Creator. You’ll need someone to hold your hand as well. Truthfully I… Read more »
That’s what the Org and other religions rely on Gogetter, ignorance of the flock and the muting if it’s intelligence. The superstitious use of the name of God by the Org and other religions has been passed on to them from the master of confusion Satan. So it’s not Jehovah or Jesus causing the confusion it is what the Devil has been able to do to accomplish his mission. In your case of spending many years as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses I can only recommend you to consider it as a stepping stone, a landmark, mile marker, as we all… Read more »
It’s a good point Gogetter, the work in good translation is monumental, I have actually gleaned a lot in just the forewords in different translations discussing the , difficulties that translators have to face , nearly everyone I have read acknowledges that it’s not perfect, quite humble really, not so the foreword in the NWT.
As analyzed by the Prof, since the over 5000 NT manuscripts does not has the tetragramaton, it should be so respected until an evidence is found. “The name of Jesus himself incorporates this name of God.” the book said, and I personally agree. John 17:11,12 states the Father “has given his name to the son” twice. Perhaps this account for the shift of emphasis from Yahweh to Jesus in the NT. As the NWT editors renders the divine name in the OT,which is right, as evidence exist, it has gone too far to insert where Lord exist in the NT,… Read more »
James, I concur that the translator should translate the text and not repair it. Any repairing should be in the footnotes. I have a different view on the divine name being used. Moses asked about the name in Exodus 3:13 but not the name but the person and authority and role of the person. From that time Jehovah begins to reveal himself to the human family. All his various roles and qualities come out. Abraham is referred to as his friend, Jehovah is caring as a shepherd, in a pastoral society it reveals a lot. When Jesus arrives, he reveals… Read more »
The change by the “powers to be” in the organization to place emphasis on “Jehovah” in the NT is clearly a design of Satan. We can clearly identify a vast sum of inaccuracies which mark the Rutherford era. As such, we can also see how Satan used Rutherford, most likely, in placing the attention on Jehovah, thus causing multitudes to look past Jesus. Is that not the bi-product of what has been accomplished. In example, just last night, my wife let me see the messages her sister has been sending to her over the past 14 months since I removed… Read more »
Thank you very much for the article, Eleasar. BeDuhn’s book is a good one indeed. The tradition says that Matthew wrote his gospel first in Hebrew and then translated it to Greek. Interestingly, Shem Tob’s Hebrew Matthew contains the divine name 19 times http://www.jwstudies.com/The_Divine_Name_in_Shem-Tobs_Matthew.pdf . Professor Howard points out that likely the Shem Tob’s Matthew is not a translation, in which case it would be very unlikely that Jews had replaced at some point adon/adonai with the divine name. Alternatively, if it still is a translation from Greek then it would have been very unlikely that Jews translated kyrios as… Read more »
Excellent article, Eleasar. Once again a quotation is used when the writer must surely have had the whole in front of him. Of course, he could not use the whole quote because we do not follow Mr Beduhn’s suggestion. I have just added it on to my “Misquotes which mislead” pile, which includes the one which upset my wife, from the July 2017 Watchtower article “winning the battle for your mind” (media and Society in the 20th century). Hebrews 13:18 ( We wish to conduct ourselves honestly in all things). Luke 16:10 (Faithful in what is least). Do the writers… Read more »
I’m amazed, I’m not crazy after all! I’ve defended the NWT in many cases and thought I was thereby a loner. And I’ve criticized the NWT in exactly the same point that there should not appear the tetragammaton in the NT where it does not exist in the most ancient manuscripts. The only exception could be the references from the OT, probably the Septuagint, however. BTW: the translation of John 1:1 most acceptable to my mind would be “… and God was the Word”, which is a BIG difference to me than; “… and the Word WAS God”. If you… Read more »
Anyone interested in reasoning behind the word order in Jh 1:1c, please see http://www.ntgreek.net/lesson14.htm , scroll down to section The Predicate Position and see the example “The word is good.”
The office of the “Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses” from their onset have claimed and reserved Divine Authority in all matters spiritual and fleshly. I ask, are these Holy Men that can interpret scripture from the tongue of an angel? Do they speak an angelic language not available to others? Are they for real or just another false religion? Do you need a Governing Body to be a “Jehovah’s Witness” ? Can you use their literature and still be found worthy of Christ? Modern day questions that need modern day fulfillment. Are they the only ones beholding the portents being… Read more »
Unfortunately many people have a common lack of information – all septuagint manuscripts who were found prior to about 150 C.E. have had the Tetragram in it. I spoke to many many Christians who claimed the opposite but even Wikipedia agrees. There are also books arguing against JWs who say that no or not all manuscripts had it in there. So there is a biased research at the othere side, too, we have to admit. So we have to acknowlege that the NT writers broke with the habit of using the Tetragram when writing the NT despite having Septuagint versions… Read more »
Nice article Eleazar. I think in just simple terms it comes down to our Creator not being the only Lord, and we are expected to consider Christ as Lord as well (this is not a NT thing, as David and Daniel called him his Lord as well). This does not supplant Yahweh/Jehovah as being Lord or take anything away from his unsurpassable greatness. But in most cases, it seems fairly easy by the context to see if the writer is referring to our Lord Jesus, or our Creator as Lord. No need to insert a name that our Creator gave… Read more »
Very informative and interesting. Thank you once again for your hard work. I think the whole point of David Splanes’ JW broadcasting talk was to tell the ones watching that because the writing dept works so hard and fact checks things so thoroughly there is no need for us to ever look twice at the quotes and references that they use. Which is completely wrong and we all know that many many articles use out of context quotes, half truths, and some are bordering on outright deception. But if the GB tells you not to look or there is no… Read more »