Do Jehovah’s Witnesses Have Their Own Bible?

From the corresponding article on jw.org

What JW.ORG Says

“Jehovah’s Witnesses have used many different translations in their study of the Bible. In languages where it is available, though, we especially appreciate the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures for its use of God’s name, for its accuracy, and for its clarity.

  • Use of God’s name. Some Bible publishers have failed to give credit where credit is due. For example, one Bible translation lists the names of over 70 people who in some way contributed to its production. Yet, this same Bible omits the name of the Author​—Jehovah God​—altogether! In contrast, the New World Translation restores the divine name in the thousands of places where it existed in the original text, while the committee that produced the translation remains anonymous.
  • Accuracy. Not all translations accurately convey the Bible’s original message. One translation, for instance, renders Matthew 7:​13 in this way: “Go in through the narrow gate, because the gate to hell is wide and the road that leads to it is easy.” However, the original text used the term “destruction,” not “hell.” Perhaps the translators inserted the word “hell” because they believed that the wicked would be tormented forever in hellfire. But that idea is not supported by the Bible. Hence, the New World Translation reads accurately: ‘Go in through the narrow gate, because broad is the gate and spacious is the road leading off into destruction.‘”

The Truth

Yes, Jehovah’s Witnesses do have their own Bible. Watchtower notably does not answer the posed question directly, instead stating that they “especially appreciate The New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures [NWT].” To say that they merely “appreciate” the NWT is a misleading understatement.

JW.ORG fails to mention that the NWT was translated, edited and published entirely by Jehovah’s Witnesses. Thus the anonymous translators all went into the project with the assertion that Watchtower doctrine is correct. Put another way, their doctrine influenced the translation of their Bible, as opposed to letting a translation of the Bible influence their doctrine.

Let us break down some of the dubious statements in the above article from JW.ORG

More Than a Preference

Often Watchtower will underplay the significance of the NWT in their worship by describing it as their “preferred” translation, or as stated above, one that they “especially appreciate.” One who studies with Jehovah’s Witnesses, however, will quickly realize through social cues that the use of the NWT is not a personal choice–it is mandatory.

From the October 2020 Watchtower Study Article: “How to Conduct a Bible Study That Leads to Baptism—Part One
  • The language and shorthand of Jehovah’s Witnesses is based around the unique wording found in the NWT. “The faithful and discreet slave,” “system of things,” “the fruitages of the spirit,” “bad association,” etc.
  • The titles of Jehovah’s Witness meeting, convention, and assembly parts are all taken from the wording of the NWT.
  • Save for very few exceptions, all of the Biblical quotes and scriptural references in all Watchtower publications are from the NWT.
  • You will never see a member of or helper to the Governing Body use another translation during an episode of JW Broadcasting, aside from perhaps a stray verse.
  • In Watchtower photos and artwork depicting “proper” Bible study, only the NWT is portrayed.
  • Every congregation member will use the NWT during their comments and student assignments.

More overt coercion, however, can be seen in the “Christian Life and Ministry Meeting” (Witnesses’ midweek worship service). The meeting is based around a scheduled Bible reading, and there are “study questions” that Witnesses are meant to find and answer. The “correct” answers are increasingly found in A) References to Watchtower publications that cite the NWT or B) the study notes of the New World Translation: Study Edition. Thus, one studying with Jehovah’s Witnesses can only find “correct” information by using the NWT.

Meeting Workbook– January 2018 p. 3

Of course the primary reason Jehovah’s Witnesses prefer the New World Translation is that it claims to have restored God’s name, Jehovah, to the Bible. We will discuss this later in the article.

Anonymous Translators:

Some Bible publishers have failed to give credit where credit is due. For example, one Bible translation lists the names of over 70 people who in some way contributed to its production. Yet, this same Bible omits the name of the Author​—Jehovah God​—altogether! In contrast, the New World Translation restores the divine name in the thousands of places where it existed in the original text, while the committee that produced the translation remains anonymous.

JW.ORG > Frequently Asked Questions> “Do Jehovah’s Witnesses Have Their Own Bible?

This is a curious passage for several reasons. First, the Bible translation being referenced is almost certainly the New Revised Standard Version, considered by scholars to be one of the most accurate Bible translations specifically because of its wide variety of translators. As opposed to a committee of scholars who ascribe to a single Christian denomination, the NRSV committee was made up of scholars of multiple denominations, including non-Christians. This is good academic practice, as it ensures that the process focuses on accurately translating the ancient languages, as opposed to twisting words to reinforce the doctrine of one denomination.

The fact that the translators are not anonymous is implied by JW.ORG to be a bad thing. However, being able to check the credentials of a proclaimed-expert can only be a good thing. Imagine if a medical handbook was written by an anonymous group of people who claimed to be doctors, but refused to give their credentials; it would hardly be considered trustworthy.

We do not know who worked on the New World Translation committee, which means we have no idea if any of the members of that committee are fluent in ancient Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek, Coptic, etcetera. We have no idea what training, if any, they received or how long they have worked as translators of ancient manuscripts–nor indeed if they have any prior experience at all.

Watchtower routinely speaks out against higher education, universities and academia, even including those who dedicate their education to learning ancient languages.

…often going far in secular education is solely a means of self-fulfillment, and not necessarily to help others. Some study what’s called ‘pure science,’ and just to advance mankind’s understanding of science, but with no practical benefit. Some study dead languages. Some study bacteria or insects, which is wonderful if you like insects. It may increase knowledge but it doesn’t necessarily help anyone.”

Governing Body member Mark Sanderson, 147th Gilead Graduation (timestamp 2:11)

Thus it is almost certain that the NWT committee is primarily made up of people who are not formal experts in translating.

A particularly manipulative bit of wording is found in the same passage, where Watchtower notes that one translation “lists the names of over 70 people who in some way contributed to its production. Yet, this same Bible omits the name of the Author​—Jehovah God​—altogether!

This raises the question: is the use of “Jehovah” in the New World Translation justified or accurate?

The Divine Name

By Watchtower’s own admission, rendering the tetragrammaton as “Jehovah” is less accurate than “Yahweh.” In an article entitled “Yahweh” or “Jehovah”? in the March 22nd, 1973 issue of Awake!, the Watchtower writers acknowledge criticisms of the use of Jehovah as opposed to Yahweh.

Concerning the form “Jehovah,” a Jesuit writer says: “It is disconcerting to see the divine name written as Jehovah, a 16th-century . . . error for Jahweh.”​—America, Nov. 27, 1971, p. 460…

In the same vein the New Catholic Encyclopedia says: “JEHOVAH, false form of the divine name Yahweh. The name Jehovah first appeared in manuscripts in the 13th century A.D., but had probably been in use for some time.” (Vol. 7, p. 863) Likewise the Revised Standard Version translators objected to the form “Jehovah,” stating that “the word ‘Jehovah’ does not accurately represent any form of the Name ever used in Hebrew,” and that “it is almost if not quite certain that the Name was originally pronounced ‘Yahweh.’”

Awake! 1973 3/22 p. 27

Watchtower does not refute the facts stated in these criticisms. How then, does Watchtower justify its use of Jehovah?

In view of these opinions, why do the witnesses of Jehovah prefer to use “Jehovah” rather than “Yahweh”? For one thing, no one can be certain just what the original pronunciation was, even as admitted by those who prefer “Yahweh.”

“Yahweh” or “Jehovah”? –Awake! March 22, 1973 p. 27

That “no one can be certain” is a curious defense from Watchtower, whose very identity is tied up in the supposed importance of God’s literal name. If no one can be certain, why be defensive about the rendering “Jehovah” in the first place–a rendering which most modern scholarship rejects? By Watchtower’s own stated interest in accuracy and dignifying the divine name, is it not be more appropriate to use the most accurate approximation?

Their other primary defense is stated in the Appendix to the all 2013-onward editions of the New World Translation.

Why, then, does this translation use the form “Jehovah”? Because that form of the divine name has a long history in the English language…

Explaining why he used ‘Jehovah’ instead of ‘Yahweh’ in his 1911 work Studies in the Psalms, respected Bible scholar Joseph Bryant Rotherham said that he wanted to employ a ‘form of the name more familiar (while perfectly acceptable) to the general Bible-reading public.’

New World Translation Study Edition A4: The Divine Name in the Hebrew Scriptures

The aforementioned 1973 article (upon which the above-cited appendix is based) puts it in plainer terms:

…the form “Jehovah” has a currency and familiarity that “Yahweh” does not have. 

“Yahweh” or “Jehovah”? –Awake! March 22, 1973 p. 27

The stated reason comes down to the suggestion that “Jehovah” is more culturally popular than “Yahweh.” This is a rather subjective opinion, as many churches regularly use “Yahweh,” and it is referenced in plenty of modern media.

What is perhaps more hypocritical is the fact that “Jehovah” is known to be an inaccurate rendering, which by Watchtower’s own admission (see A4 of the NWT) did not come into the English language until the 1500’s.

The word ‘Jehovah’ does not accurately represent any form of the name ever used in Hebrew”

“Preface to the Revised Standard Version of the Bible (1971)”.

The Divine Name in the New Testament

In the JW.ORG FAQ article, Is the New World Translation Accurate? the following is stated:

  • “Many translations of the Bible sacrifice faithfulness to God’s message in favor of following human traditions, for instance by replacing God’s personal name, Jehovah, with titles such as Lord or God.”

However, the translators of the New World Translation have sacrificed faithfulness to the Bible by adding the name “Jehovah” to the New Testament 237 times.

One only has to compare New Testament verses containing the divine name in the New World Translation to the original Greek in the Kingdom Interlinear to see that these 237 additions are unfounded. No existing manuscripts of the New Testament contain the divine name, a fact which Watchtower acknowledges in the Appendix to the 2013 Revision:

  • The Greek manuscripts we possess today are not the originals. Of the thousands of copies in existence today, most were made at least two centuries after the originals were composed. (2) By that time, those copying the manuscripts either replaced the Tetragrammaton with Kyʹri·os, the Greek word for “Lord,” or they copied from manuscripts where this had already been done.

    The New World Bible Translation Committee determined that there is compelling evidence that the Tetragrammaton did appear in the original Greek manuscripts

Deceptively, Watchtower states that “those copying the manuscripts replaced the Tetragrammaton with Ky’rios,” even as they acknowledge that there are no existing manuscripts that support this assertion.

As Watchtower itself outlines, we do not have the original Greek manuscripts. This means that when they say “there is compelling evidence that the Tetragrammaton did appear in the original Greek manuscripts,” they are basing their entire translation around assumptions about non-existent manuscripts.

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