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The August 1, 2008 Watchtower magazine
Should the Name JEHOVAH Appear in the New Testament?
On the surface, the article, Should the Name JEHOVAH Appear in the New Testament? looks like a typical Watchtower magazine article. Careful examination, however, suggests that the Watchtower Society used the article to introduce a substantial change in their stated reason for using "Jehovah" in the New World Translation Christian Scriptures.
Overview of this page: The original translators of the New World Translation Christian Scriptures stated that they would insert the divine name "Jehovah" into the Christian Scriptures when:
A series of books was published between 1998 and 2003 which challenged the presumed admissibility of "Jehovah" in the Greek Christian Scriptures. These books claimed that:
A great deal of debate followed as others produced books and websites defending the New World Translation. None of the defenders, however, were able to produce manuscript or historical justification for including "Jehovah" 237 times in the NWT Christian Scriptures.
On August 1, 2008, the Watchtower magazine published an article entitled, Should the Name JEHOVAH Appear in the New Testament? One must surmise that the article's writers had no further manuscript evidence or historical justification for the presence of "Jehovah" in the Christian Scriptures because they entirely sidestepped that challenge. Rather, they offered—as quoted below— what they called Two Compelling Reasons why the name of Jehovah should be used in the Christian Scriptures:
The discerning reader can readily identify both of these reasons as being subjective translators' opinions rather than objective textual justification for the wording of an English translation.
Thus, in a single article, the Watchtower magazine identified the New World Translation Christian Scriptures as a biased translation. It is said to be based on the translators' "belief" and what was "evident" about the Septuagint even when the Septuagint offers no manuscript evidence within the manuscript-family of the Christian Scriptures. This is in contrast to the original New World Translation Committee's objective standard of: 1) basing the translation on a quoted Hebrew Scripture verse that used the Tetragrammaton and 2) verifying the Tetragrammaton's presence in the same Christian Scripture verse in Hebrew versions.
This page concludes by saying, "Manuscript evidence supporting the Tetragrammaton (יהוה) coming from early Greek Christian Scripture manuscripts is the essential key to identifying the New World Translation Christian Scriptures as containing a true restoration of the divine name. Apart from early manuscript evidence, the New World Translation Christian Scriptures will now be known as a highly biased translation based on the Watchtower magazine's acknowledged subjective beliefs of its translators."
Nonetheless, the New World Translation Committee is to be commended for restoring the divine name to the Hebrew Scriptures. Their faithful restoration is in keeping with the best textual evidence.
When the New World Translation Christian Greek Scriptures was released in 1950, the New World Translation Committee published their reason for including the divine name in the Christian Greek Scriptures. Their explanation was necessary inasmuch as the Tetragrammaton—the four Hebrew letters of the divine name written as יהוה—never appears in the Greek text from which the NWT Christian Scriptures was translated.
Few realize that the Tetragrammaton is never found in the Greek text from which the Christian Scriptures was translated into English. The Greek text used by the New World Translation Committee for the 1950 translation was the well-respected Westcott and Hort text. Today, this Greek text is available as the Kingdom Interlinear Translation, published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society. The Greek text represents the most faithful reproduction of the exact words written by the original apostolic authors. A careful study in the Kingdom Interlinear Translation of each of the 237 "Jehovah" references in the New World Translation Christian Scriptures indicates that in 223 instances, the Greek word for Lord (kyrios) was translated to read "Jehovah." Of the remaining Greek words translated to read "Jehovah," 13 were the word God (Theos) and one was taken from the grammatical structure of another Greek word.
The Watch Tower Society admits that there are no ancient Greek manuscripts of the Christian Scriptures which contain God’s name in Hebrew letters. We also know that there are no ancient Greek Christian Scripture manuscripts which contain a transcription of the four Hebrew letters using Greek letters such as ΙΑΩ (IAO).
For reference, see Aid to Bible Understanding, pages 886-888. Despite the absence of manuscripts containing the Hebrew letters of the Tetragrammaton, the Watch Tower Society maintains that the Tetragrammaton was used by the inspired Christian Greek Scripture writers, but was subsequently removed as a result of a great heresy in the second and third centuries C.E. The book The Tetragrammaton and the Christian Greek Scriptures (available at www.tetragrammaton.org) discusses this purported heresy in detail.
A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, United Bible Societies, 1971, lists no variant (an alternate reading which differs from the wording of a majority of Greek manuscripts) of God’s name for any of the 237 NWT Jehovah verses. However, there are ancient Hebrew Scripture manuscripts (not Christian Scripture manuscripts) and other religious writings from this same time period that do contain God’s name transcribed as Greek letters ΙΑΩ (IAO) or into transcription-equivalent Greek letters ΠΙΠΙ (PIPI). (ΠΙΠΙ has no phonetic meaning in Greek. It was merely used by early scribes to represent the graphics of the Tetragrammaton (יהוה) using Greek letters.)
On the surface, it would seem as though this lack of textual evidence indicates that the name of God should not be restored to the Christian Scriptures. (Throughout this discussion, we will use the term textual evidence to refer to early Greek manuscripts of the Christian Scriptures which contain either the Tetragrammaton in Hebrew letters, or a transcription of the divine name into Greek letters. It could also refer to a scribal note on a manuscript identifying an alternate reading at any place on a manuscript in which uncertainty between יהוה (the Tetragrammaton in Hebrew letters), ΙΑΩ (IAO, the Greek phonetic transcription of the Tetragrammaton), ΠΙΠΙ (PIPI, the four Greek letters occasionally used to represent the Hebrew letters in the Tetragrammaton), Κύριος (Kyrios) or Theos might occur. Textual evidence does not refer to the use of יהוה found in Greek Septuagint manuscripts, inasmuch as the Septuagint and the Christian Scriptures are entirely different documents. Nonetheless, the presence of יהוה in Septuagint copies is noteworthy, and is appropriately included in the overall discussion.)
However, the New World Bible Translation Committee proposed two translation guidelines and a third hypothesis regarding the history of the early Christian congregations to support the use of Jehovah in their Christian Scripture translation.
First, and most importantly, they stated that when a Christian Scripture writer quoted a Hebrew Scripture verse that used the Tetragrammaton (יהוה) in the Hebrew language text, they would insert the name Jehovah in the English translation of that Christian Scripture verse.
Secondly, they stated that God’s name should be restored in the English translation of a Christian Scripture verse when the Tetragrammaton (יהוה) is found in Hebrew versions of that same verse.
Finally, they stated that God’s name should be restored, because a purported heresy in the early Christian congregations sometime during the second or third century C.E. resulted in the removal of the Tetragrammaton from the Christian Scripture writings.
This statement from Appendix 1D of the New World Translation, Reference Edition, 1984, pages 1564 and 1565 is the basis for guidelines #1 and #2 above. The Committee’s statement is as follows:
To know where the divine name was replaced by the Greek words Κύριος and Theos, we have determined where the inspired Christian writers have quoted verses, passages and expressions from the Hebrew Scriptures and then we have referred back to the Hebrew text to ascertain whether the divine name appears there. In this way we determined the identity to give Κύριος and Theos and the personality with which to clothe them.
To avoid overstepping the bounds of a translator into the field of exegesis, we have been most cautious about rendering the divine name in the Christian Greek Scriptures, always carefully considering the Hebrew Scriptures as a background. We have looked for agreement from the Hebrew versions to confirm our rendering. Thus, out of the 237 times that we have rendered the divine name in the body of our translation, there is only one instance where we have no agreement from the Hebrew versions.
A concise summary of the Translation Committee's third reason (hypothesis #3 above) justifying the use of Jehovah in their Christian Scripture translation is also given in Appendix 1D of the New World Translation Reference Edition (page 1564). We quote in part:
All the writers of the Christian Greek Scriptures quoted verses from the Hebrew text or from the Septuagint where the divine name appears. For example, in Peter's speech in Ac 3:22 a quotation is made from De 18:15 where the Tetragrammaton appears in a papyrus fragment of the Septuagint dated to the first century B.C.E. As a follower of Christ, Peter used God's name, Jehovah. When Peter's speech was put on record the Tetragrammaton was here used according to the practice during the first century B.C.E. and the first century C.E.
Sometime during the second or third century C.E. the scribes removed the Tetragrammaton from both the Septuagint and the Christian Greek Scriptures and replaced it with Ky'ri.os, Lord or The.os', "God."
For copyright reasons, we cannot fully reproduce this article. However, it is summarized below in table format. Under the Article Statement: column, we will quote or summarize statements and ideas found in the article, indicating the (page number) on which the statement appears. When appropriate, we will also include relevant links. Under the Reference citation: column, we will reproduce the citations used in the article or will indicate that the citations were Full (meaning that the statement is fully documented with Scripture references), Adequate (meaning that the statement is adequately referenced using external support), None (meaning that the statement lacks necessary external support), and N/A (meaning Not Applicable when the statement does not require cited support). Footnotes appear under the table.
|Article: Should the Name JEHOVAH Appear in the New Testament? August 1, 2008|
|Article statement: (page number)||Reference citation:|
|God's name (יהוה) appears almost 7,000 times in the original Hebrew text of the Old Testament (OT). (page 18)||A cited reference is unnecessary since this would be common knowledge for most readers.|
|What happens when a New Testament (NT) writer quotes passages from the OT in which the Tetragrammaton appears? (page 18)||Not Applicable (N/A)|
|What basis is there for using God's name in the NT, and how does its use affect you? (page 18)||N/A|
|Present copies of NT manuscripts are not the originals. It appears that those copying the manuscripts either replaced the Tetragrammaton with Kurios or Kyrios or were using manuscripts in which that had already been done. (page 19)||The Divine Name that Will Endure Forever, pages 23-27|
|Referring to the previous statement that the Tetragrammaton was replaced by Kurios or Kyrios, the writers then say, Knowing this, a translator must determine whether there is reasonable evidence that the Tetragrammaton did in fact appear in the original Greek manuscripts. (page 19)||None|
|When Jesus quoted the OT or read from it, he used the divine name. (page 19)||Full|
|Jesus used God's name and made it known to others. (page 19)||Full|
|The divine name appears in its abbreviated form in the Greek Scriptures. (page 20)||Full|
|Early Jewish writings indicate that Jewish Christians used the divine name in their writings. (page 20)||Adequate|
|Under the heading How Have Translators Handled This Issue? the article lists numerous translations which used their language form of "Jehovah" in the NT. There is also a table entitled List of 99 Languages That Use a Vernacular Form of the Tetragrammaton in the New Testament. (You may examine the use of the divine name in one of these vernacular Bibles—The Malagasy Bible—which uses Jehovah 16 times in the NT including Hebrews 1:10, which reads, "And: 'You at [the] beginning, O Lord, laid the foundations of the earth itself, and the heavens are [the] works of your hands.' " [NWT]) (pages 20-22)||Full|
|Many Bible translators have felt that the divine name should be restored when they translated the NT. The New World Bible Translation Committee carefully weighed all the relevant evidence [for including the name]. Based on the facts, they decided to include Jehovah's name in the translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures. (page 22)||None|
|(1) The translators believed that since the Christian Greek Scriptures were an inspired addition to the sacred Hebrew Scriptures, the sudden disappearance of Jehovah's name from the text seemed inconsistent. (page 22)||None|
|(2) When copies of the Septuagint were discovered that used the divine name rather than Ky'ri-os (Lord), it became evident to the translators that in Jesus' day copies of the earlier Scriptures in Greek—and of course those in Hebrew—did contain the divine name. (page 22)||None|
|The article concludes with a challenge to be mindful of Romans 10:13, 14 and Joel 2:32. "For 'everyone who calls on the name of Jehovah will be saved.' However, how will they call on him in whom they have not put faith? How, in turn, will they put faith in him of whom they have not heard? How, in turn, will they hear without someone to preach?" (page 22)||Full|
This pamphlet does not substantiate that there was, in fact, any occurrence of the Tetragrammaton in the original Greek NT. The point of view that the Tetragrammaton was used in the original Christian Scripture manuscripts is not mandatory in the formation of the NT writings but is only necessary for the point of view that Jesus was created.
This is a leading question, asking the reader to accept a statement which has no documented verification. There is no manuscript evidence of any kind that the Tetragrammaton was ever used in any original or later copies of Greek NT manuscripts, though it has been found in numerous Septuagint (Greek OT) manuscripts.
This is a true statement, but the abbreviated form is in Greek letters, not Hebrew letters. This can be easily verified by reading the verses at Revelation 19:1, 3,4, 6 from the Kingdom Interlinear Translation.
The reference to The Tosefta, the minim, and Rabbi Yose documents are adequate. There is no reason why educated Jewish Christians would not write in Hebrew, and it would certainly be expected that they would write the divine name (Tetragrammaton). The statement, "Thus, there is strong evidence that the Jews living in the second century C.E. believed that Christians used Jehovah's name in their writings," should be readily accepted.
In this statement, the article writers tell us that the New World Translation Committee decided to use the divine name for two compelling reasons. Yet, they do not refer us to the source of that statement. As we have already seen above, the New World Translation Committee gave two reasons and an implied third justification, but all three are quite different from the two reasons given as the basis for their work in this article. See the original New World Translation Committee's statement above. Because the New World Translation was published in 1950, any statement from the Committee would have been given at approximately that time, since the justification for including the name of Jehovah in the Christian Scriptures would have needed to precede the actual translation work itself.
The article continues with a statement which says, "Why is that a reasonable conclusion? About the middle of the first century C.E., the disciple James said to the elders in Jerusalem: 'Symeon has related thoroughly how God for the first time turned his attention to the nations to take out of them a people for his name.' (Acts 15:14) Does it sound logical to you that James would make such a statement if nobody in the first century knew or used God's name?" However, the reader must be aware that this concluding, short paragraph is not a statement from the New World Translation Committee, but is a comment made by the article's writers.
Looking back at the New World Translation Committee's original criteria for determining the proper translation of the Greek words Κύριος and Theos, we find that they established a relatively simple guideline. They say that when they find either Κύριος or Theos in the Christian Scripture Greek text, they will translate the word as "Jehovah" if:
The text is a quotation from the Hebrew Scriptures in which the divine name יהוה is used.
The Tetragrammaton is found in Hebrew versions as a translation of the Greek words Κύριος and Theos at the same Christian Scripture verse. (In this case, the Hebrew versions would have translated either Κύριος or Theos as יהוה.)
Finally, the New World Translation Committee stated that, in some instances, Κύριος or Theos should be translated as "Jehovah" because a purported heresy in the early Christian congregations sometime during the second or third century C.E. resulted in the removal of the Tetragrammaton from the Christian Scripture writings.
It is unsettling, however, to find exceptions to their stated translation rules. For example, Psalm 34:8 ("Taste and see that Jehovah is good, O YOU people; Happy is the able-bodied man that takes refuge in him.") is quoted at 1 Peter 2:3 ("provided YOU have tasted that the Lord is kind," [rather than, "Jehovah is kind."]) Isaiah 45:21, 23, 24 ("Is it not I, Jehovah, besides whom there is no other God; a righteous God and a Savior, there being none excepting me?...that to me every knee will bend down, every tongue will swear, saying, 'Surely in Jehovah there are full righteousness and strength,") is clearly quoted at Romans 14:11 (" 'As I live,' says Jehovah, 'to me every knee will bend down, and every tongue will make open acknowledgment to God.' ") and Philippians 2:10-11 ("so that in the name of Jesus every knee should bend of those in heaven and those on earth and those under the ground, and every tongue should openly acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord [rather than "Jehovah"] to the glory of God the Father.")
It is equally disturbing to find the second restoration principle ignored when the Tetragrammaton is used in a Hebrew version but translated as "Lord" in the NWT. At least the two Hebrew versions J17 and J18 identify Jesus with Hebrew titles of deity in stark contrast to the identification that he is given in the New World Translation. The Hebrew version translators use the Tetragrammaton (יהוה) when translating verses quoted from the Hebrew Scriptures. Concurrently, when an inspired Christian Greek Scripture writer identifies the Lord Jesus within a verse containing a Hebrew Scripture quotation such as 1 Peter 2:3 and 3:15, these Hebrew translators also freely identify our Lord Adonenu as the subject. (In the case of J17, the Hebrew translator actually identifies Jesus as יהוה.) The identification of our Lord [Jesus] with Jehovah (יהוה) is unmistakable in these two Hebrew versions. Both Hebrew versions J17 and J18 were compared, showing similar (though not identical) word usage. The primary study was done from J18. The second Hebrew version J17 was compared in the case of 1 Peter 2:3 and 3:15. At 1 Peter 2:3, this second version uses haAdohn with the meaning the [true] Lord, or Jehovah. As noted earlier, the second version clearly uses the Tetragrammaton with modern vowel points at 1 Peter 3:15. After seeing this difference in the Hebrew translators' choice of words, the reader understands that all Hebrew versions must be evaluated independently. We cannot make generalized statements from these two Hebrew versions that universally apply to all "J" references.
In 1998, the first book in a series was published which challenged the presumed admissibility of "Jehovah" in the Greek Christian Scriptures. (The primary book was The Tetragrammaton and the Christian Greek Scriptures. A condensed book containing similar material was entitled The Divine Name in the New World Translation. A third pamphlet was entitled A Field Service Encounter.)
These books created a great deal of debate. As a result, Greg Stanford produced his Jehovah's Witnesses Defended, Second Edition with a special section on pages 19 - 36 responding to this material. He also produced an Appendix to the subject in his Three Dissertations on the Teachings of Jehovah's Witnesses. (See Join the Debate with Greg Stafford for a summary.) A book in defense of the Watchtower's position was also produced in Italy by Matteo Pierro. It is entitled Geova E Il Nuovo Testamento (Jehovah in the New Testament). The book Your Word is Truth, Essays in Celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures, edited by Anthony Byatt and Hal Flemings devoted two chapters to defending the Watchtower's position. In addition, these books which challenged the presumed admissibility of "Jehovah" in the Christian Scriptures generated a great deal of website and email debate.
You may read a complete summary of Greg Stafford's comments on this website. Note, however, his closing paragraphs quoted below referring to 144 verses which he has categorized as "the number of times the NWT used the divine name in the NT without the support of an OT quotation or paraphrase." Consider that verses such as Revelation 1:8 ("I am the Al'pha and the O·me'ga," says Jehovah God, "the One who is and who was and who is coming, the Almighty,") or Revelation 4:11 ("You are worthy, Jehovah, even our God, to receive the glory and the honor and the power, because you created all things, and because of your will they existed and were created,") and many others like it are in the list of 144 verses which are "without the support of an OT quotation or paraphrase." That is, according to the translation principles established by the New World Translation Committee, these two verses should read "Lord" rather than "Jehovah."
In his closing paragraphs, Greg Stafford says,
"The fact that my conclusions on this matter point to fewer uses of the divine name in the NT than we presently find in the NWT, does not mean that the NWT translators did not have their reasons for using the divine name 237 times; they obviously did. The point here is simply this: the basis for using the divine name in the NT should be open to as few questions as possible, since we do not have the original NT manuscripts at our disposal. The fact that there are some 144 (at the very least, 83) instances where NWT used the divine name in the NT simply on the basis of their interpretation of the context, is their prerogative as translators.
"However, the argument that the basis for NWT's use of the divine name in the 144 instances listed [in] the last two columns of figure 1.2 (the "J" documents) does not outweigh the testimony of the available NT witnesses, cannot be faulted. But since the NWT translators have gone to great lengths to help their readers understand the basis for their use of the divine name in these 144 instances, providing all the relevant data for the material in footnotes, forewords and appendices, then they cannot rightly be spoken of as having attempted to deceive anyone. At most, it could be said that NWT did not clearly communicate the fact that not all uses of the divine name in the NT were based on OT quotations or paraphrases. Still, in view of the space they have devoted to explaining their use of the divine name in the NT, I am not sure that even this would be a legitimate argument." … (Italic emphasis Stafford's.)
Yet, to our knowledge, the Watchtower Society did not address any response to the general public until publishing their August 1, 2008 Watchtower magazine article: Should the Name JEHOVAH Appear in the New Testament? Though this Watchtower magazine article makes no mention of the books challenging the presumed admissibility of "Jehovah" in the Christian Scriptures, the article is a pointed rebuttal.
It is noteworthy, however, that the article completely sidesteps the very challenge which it faced. This challenge of the admissibility of "Jehovah" in the Christian Scriptures maintains that:
There is no ancient manuscript evidence of any kind showing that the Tetragrammaton was used in early copies of the Greek Christian Scriptures. In fact, there is no manuscript evidence of any kind that the Tetragrammaton was ever used in a Christian Scripture manuscript—only that it was used in Septuagint manuscripts.
The Hebrew versions certainly use the Tetragrammaton in the Christian Scriptures. With only three probable exceptions, however, all of these Hebrew versions are translated from the same Greek text used for the 1611 King James Version. This Greek text is in wide circulation today and is known as the Textus Receptus. It is simple to verify that every instance in which the Tetragrammaton is used in Hebrew versions is a mere translation of a Greek word—usually the Greek word Κύριος (Kyrios or Lord). The Tetragrammaton never appears in the Textus Receptus and, therefore, the Hebrew versions prove nothing regarding ancient Greek texts which presumably used the Tetragrammaton.
 Most assume that Hebrew versions are ancient texts. In fact, they are not. A Hebrew version is to the Hebrew reader what an English version is to an English reader. An English version is a translation from the Greek text of the Christian Scriptures in order for an English reader to study the inspired Scriptures in English. So, too, a Hebrew version is a translation from the Greek text of the Christian Scriptures in order for a Hebrew reader to study the inspired Scriptures in Hebrew. A Hebrew version has no more authority in defining the writing of the original apostolic writers than does an English version. The earliest complete Hebrew version cited by the New World Translation was translated from the King James Greek text in 1599. The most recent Hebrew version cited in the New World Translation was translated in 1979 from a "New Testament" Greek text published in 1975. Of course, all of the Greek texts from which these Hebrew versions were translated can be readily examined today. None of these Greek texts contain a single occurrence of either יהוה in Hebrew letters or the divine name transliterated into Greek letters.
 The most notable exception is J2. This is the 1385 Shem-Tob Gospel of Matthew which is probably a recension (a modified copy for the purpose of correcting errors) of Matthew's Gospel written in Hebrew. However, J2 does not use the Tetragrammaton, but rather uses a circumlocution meaning "the Name." (A circumlocution is an evasion in speech of a word—such as the divine name—which should not be pronounced, or the pronounceable word itself.) The other two exceptions are J22, published in 1979 and J23, published in 1975. These modern translations would undoubtedly have used the United Bible Societies' Greek texts which, nonetheless, are just as simple to use in verifying the absence of the Tetragrammaton in the Greek text and the Greek word from which the Tetragrammaton in the respective modern Hebrew version was translated. (Shem-Tob's Hebrew Gospel of Matthew with an accompanying English translation is contained in The Gospel of Matthew according to a Primitive Hebrew Text, by George Howard, published by Mercer University Press, Macon, Georgia, 1987. The book was re-published in 1995 with a new title: Hebrew Gospel of Matthew.)
There is no historical evidence for a heresy in which the divine name was removed from the early Christian Scriptures. Furthermore, had there been such a heresy, it would have left telltale evidence in the manuscript tradition. Since most ancient manuscripts have been buried or hidden for hundreds of years, it would have been impossible for the early heretics to have destroyed all copies. Since errors in hand-copied manuscripts do not result in abrupt changes, had such a heresy occurred even over a short period of time, the Tetragrammaton would not have abruptly been changed to Kyrios or Theos. For a long period of time after the change, there would have been erasures in the text with scribal notes. In addition, manuscripts from Africa (of which there have been a considerable number) would have shown the greatest resistance to change because they would have been isolated from the center of the heresy. Yet—and, probably, most importantly—we know of the heresies throughout the life of early Christendom because they stirred such heated debates. A heretical attempt to change the Tetragrammaton to Kyrios or Theos would have left evidence of such a vitriolic battle between the factions that countless early manuscripts from both sides would have come to light.
Since these three arguments are the very foundation on which the New World Translation Committee built their justification for "restoring" the divine name to the Christian Scriptures, these arguments cannot be ignored.
The only explainable reason that the writers of the August 1, 2008 Watchtower article could have had for ignoring these arguments is that there is no manuscript or historical evidence that supports the New World Translation Committee's justification for placing the divine name in the Christian Scriptures.
It appears, therefore, that the writers of this Watchtower magazine article simply chose to move away from the challenge of the admissibility of "Jehovah" in the Christian Scriptures without providing any manuscript or historical verification of the Committee's claims. Instead, they attempted to establish a new set of reasons why the presence of the divine name can be justified in the New World Translation Christian Scriptures. In doing so, however, they have made a grave error which could be very costly to them:
Unlike the Watchtower magazine article writers' attempt, the justification for a translation must be established prior to the time the translation work begins—not more than 50 years after the work has been completed.
Following the accepted Bible translation procedure, the
New World Translation Committee initially established this
direction early in their translation work. In the
Introduction to the 1984 New World Translation Reference
Edition, the editors state this purpose for the New
Since the Bible sets forth the sacred will of the Sovereign Lord of the universe, it would be a great indignity, indeed an affront to his majesty and authority, to omit or hide his unique divine name, which plainly occurs in the Hebrew text nearly 7,000 times as יהוה. Therefore, the foremost feature of this translation is the restoration of the divine name to its rightful place in the English text. It has been done, using the commonly accepted English form Jehovah 6,973 times in the Hebrew Scriptures and 237 times in the Christian Greek Scriptures.
The statement of the New World Translation Committee is sufficient justification to include the divine name in their translation of the Hebrew Scriptures. Any astute critic could obtain a copy of Kittle's Biblia Hebraica, first published in 1937, and revised and reprinted many times since. The volume is readily available in most theological seminary libraries and bookstores. The divine name is clearly reproduced throughout Biblia Hebraica which is based on Codex Leningrad B 19A. The textual evidence is all that the New World Translation Committee needed to to rightly justify restoration of the Divine name almost 7,000 times in their translation.
There is, however, no textual evidence of יהוה in any ancient Greek manuscripts. The only textual evidence the New World Translation Committee provided is the Greek text of the Westcott and Hort Greek Text which they published as the Kingdom Interlinear Translation. In fact, the Kingdom Interlinear Translation does just the opposite. Rather than providing any textual evidence for including the divine name in the Greek Scriptures, it actually validates that the Greek word Κύριος was used 714 times in the earliest Greek manuscripts.
We believe the writers of the August 1, 2008 Watchtower magazine article, Should the Name JEHOVAH Appear in the New Testament? made a fundamental error which will be terribly costly to them. An acceptable justification for the presence of "Jehovah" in the NWT translation of the Christian Scriptures must be based on verifiable textual evidence.
However, the writers of this article did not affirm the original New World Translation Committees' principles of translation with textual evidence supporting the use of the Tetragrammaton in the Greek text of the earliest Greek manuscripts. Instead, they developed two entirely new principles of translation based wholly on subjective values:
"The translators believed that since the Christian Greek Scriptures were an inspired addition to the sacred Hebrew Scriptures, the sudden disappearance of Jehovah's name from the text seemed inconsistent. (article page 22)
"When copies of the Septuagint were discovered that used the divine name rather than Ky'ri-os (Lord), it became evident to the translators that in Jesus' day copies of the earlier Scriptures in Greek—and of course those in Hebrew—did contain the divine name." (article page 22)
By adopting these two subjective reasons for placing the name "Jehovah" in the New World Translation Christian Scriptures 237 times, the writers of this article have redefined the NWT Christian Scriptures as being biased. It is biased because the justification for the English word "Jehovah" is based on subjective rather than textual translation support. According to this new statement of purpose, the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society must now content themselves with having produced a sectarian translation crafted to support their own doctrine.
The term Bible translation bias is generally understood to mean a version which translates the Hebrew or Greek text to make the finished Bible agree with the doctrine of the sectarian group producing that translation. The standard for unbiased translation is generally understood to be the degree to which a translation communicates the original meaning to a reader in the modern target language today (English, in this case). The original meaning is the meaning the text conveyed to a Hebrew- or Greek-speaking reader at the time it was written. Of course, it is impossible to categorize any translation as being wholly biased or wholly unbiased. In reality, any translation has some areas in which a bias could be demonstrated while in other areas it is generally free of other types of bias.
Nonetheless, the above definition of either bias or freedom from bias in Bible translation is a reflection of the translators' ability to transfer the original meaning of the text into the modern target language.
Because we have already used a footnote reference to Isaiah 45:21, 23, 24; Romans 14:11; and Philippians 2:9-11, we will identify how those three passages would appear in both biased and unbiased translations.
|Translation #1—An example of freedom from translation bias|
|Quotation: Isaiah 45:21, 23, 24||The evidence substantiating freedom from translation bias:|
|"Is it not I, Jehovah, besides whom there is no other God; a righteous God and a Savior, there being none excepting me?...that to me every knee will bend down, every tongue will swear, saying, 'Surely in Jehovah there are full righteousness and strength." (NWT)||The Hebrew text for these verses in the Biblia Hebraica uses the Tetragrammaton. The original readers understood that the text was using the divine name. By using the name "Jehovah" in this verse, the translators have preserved the original meaning of the Hebrew text. When reading this translation, the modern English reader understands that the passage is referring to God when it uses his personal name.|
|Translation #2—An example of translation bias|
|Quotation: Isaiah 45:21, 23, 24||The evidence substantiating translation bias:|
|"Was it not I, the LORD? And there is no God apart from me, a righteous God and a Savior; there is none but me. . .Before me every knee will bow; by me every tongue will swear. They will say of me, 'In the LORD alone are righteousness and strength.'" (NIV)||The Hebrew text for these verses uses the Tetragrammaton. The original readers understood that the text was using the divine name. By using the capitalized word "LORD" in this verse, the translators have hidden the original meaning of the Hebrew text. The modern English reader may confuse this passage to be talking about Jesus of the New Testament. We do not know the intent of the translators, but the end result biases the passage in allowing confusion between Jesus and Jehovah in Isaiah's statement.|
|Translation #3—An example of translation bias|
|Quotation: Romans 14:11||The evidence substantiating translation bias:|
|" 'As I live,' says Jehovah, 'to me every knee will bend down, and every tongue will make open acknowledgment to God.' " (NWT)||The translation of this verse does not follow the Greek text in the Kingdom Interlinear Translation. The Greek text uses the Greek word Κύριος. The original Christian readers understood that Κύριος was used in the Septuagint as a Greek translation for the divine name and was later then also used for both the divine name and as a title for Jesus meaning "Lord" in their own Christian Scriptures. Κύριος is thus ambiguous. Nonetheless, it is a bias for the translator to presume to make a selection between the two meanings for the English reader when the original author left the first century reader to make their own selection.|
|Translation #4—An example of freedom from translation bias|
|Quotation: Romans 14:11||The evidence substantiating freedom from translation bias:|
|"It is written: 'As surely as I live,' says the Lord, 'every knee will bow before me; every tongue will confess to God.'" (NIV)||The Greek text for this verse uses the Greek word Κύριος. Irrespective of the fact that this word was ambiguous to the first century reader, the translators used the English word "Lord" which contains equivalent ambiguity for today's reader.|
|Translation #5—An example of translation bias|
|Quotation: Philippians 2:9-11||The evidence substantiating translation bias:|
|"For this very reason also God exalted him to a superior position and kindly gave him the name that is above every [other] name, so that in the name of Jesus every knee should bend of those in heaven and those on earth and those under the ground, and every tongue should openly acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father." (NWT)||The Greek text for this verse in the Kingdom Interlinear Translation does not have any word or grammatical structure that allows the bracketed word "[other]." The bracketed [other] apparently results from a translation bias required to maintain a theological position unique to the group producing the translation.|
|Translation #6—An example of freedom from translation bias|
|Quotation: Philippians 2:9-11||The evidence substantiating freedom from translation bias:|
|"For this very reason also God exalted him to a superior position and kindly gave him the name that is above every [other] name, so that in the name of Jesus every knee should bend of those in heaven and those on earth and those under the ground, and every tongue should openly acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father." (NWT)||The Greek text for this verse in the Kingdom Interlinear Translation uses the word Κύριος. The translators have correctly translated the phrase, "Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father."|
 This is one of the simplest ways in which a Bible translation may be biased. Translation between any two languages encounters the reality that a single word in one language may be translated by multiple words in another language. Which word should be used may often depend on the meaning or context of the word in the original language. For example, the Christian Scripture reader in the first century would understand the word Κύριος (Kyrios) to have the range of modern English meanings of Jehovah, God, the Lord Jesus, a slave master or employer, an owner, and a title of respect meaning Sir. The New World Translation appropriately uses this range of meanings in a number of instances. However, the Bible translator may bias his translation by choosing a particular meaning he wishes the translation to convey and eliminating other optional meanings which the original reader in Greek or Hebrew would have also considered. For a further illustration of this form of bias, see the discussion in Truth in Translation. The Kingdom Interlinear Translation word-for-word English translation of the Greek text for verse 9 says, "through which | also | the | God | him | put high up over, | and | he graciously gave | to him | the | name | the | over | every | name." The Greek phrase contains 15 words indicated by the |...| marks. However, a number of these words must be translated using two or more English words, such as "he graciously gave." The interlinear English translation under the Greek text in the Kingdom Interlinear Translation was presumably supervised by the New World Translation Committee, so that they were aware that there was no sense of "[other]" in this phrase. Note, however, that not using the divine name violates the translators' first translation principle stating that they would use "Jehovah" in the English translation when the Tetragrammaton is used in the Hebrew Scriptures from which the Christian Scripture is quoted. This verse is quoted from Isaiah 45:21, 23, 24 which uses יהוה.
There has been a great deal of discussion regarding bias in Bible translation—particularly in regard to the New World Translation's Christian Scriptures. This includes two important books widely read by Witnesses: The Role of Theology and Bias in Bible Translation With a special look at the New World Translation of Jehovah's Witnesses by Rolf Furuli, and Truth in Translation, Accuracy and Bias in English Translations of the New Testament by Jason David BeDuhn. In his book Truth in Translation, BeDuhn provides an appendix entitled The Use of "Jehovah" in the NWT.
From its release in 1950 until present, the New World Translation Christian Scriptures has been severely criticised as being a highly biased Bible translation. If the Watchtower Society cannot provide satisfactory documentation that ancient Greek manuscripts justify the presence of "Jehovah" in the English translation, the New World Translation and those called Jehovah's Witnesses will be widely discredited.
Manuscript evidence supporting the Tetragrammaton (יהוה) coming from early Greek Christian Scripture manuscripts is the essential key to identifying the New World Translation Christian Scriptures as containing a true restoration of the divine name. Apart from early manuscript evidence, the New World Translation Christian Scriptures will now be known as a highly biased translation based on the Watchtower magazine's acknowledged subjective beliefs of its translators.
We commend the New World Translation Committee for their work in restoring the divine name in the Hebrew Scriptures. In this area, their translation work is fully supported—in fact, it is demanded—by textual evidence. The use of the divine name in the New World Translation Hebrew Scriptures represents much greater fidelity to the inspired Hebrew text than does the translation practice of substituting a capitalized LORD for the divine name in other English Bibles. (Read our Open Letters on this website.)
On the other hand, the writers of the Watchtower magazine cannot afford to turn their backs on the debate regarding their lack of textual evidence for the divine name in the Christian Scriptures. Their August 1, 2008 article: Should the Name JEHOVAH Appear in the New Testament? is woefully inadequate in this regard. They must produce satisfactory Christian Scripture manuscript evidence showing the use of the Tetragrammaton in very early copies. If they cannot produce authentic manuscript evidence without relying on discussions of the Septuagint, and posing leading questions regarding what the inspired authors would have done when copying from a Hebrew manuscript, they must truthfully admit to themselves and their people that the New World Translation is a strongly biased work. If manuscript evidence does not require it, then the arbitrary addition of "Jehovah" 237 times in the Christian Scriptures is nothing less than a monumental translation bias used to hide the clear statements of the Greek text that Jesus is "Lord God Almighty." (Read Revelation 1:8, 4:8, 11, 11:17, 16:7, and 19:6 from the English-under-Greek portion of the Kingdom Interlinear Translation.) The writers owe this frank recognition of the NWT's biased translation to those in the congregations who are depending on them to properly represent the true knowledge of God that leads to eternal happiness in an earthly paradise.
How sad it would be to be denied entrance into paradise because the Bible used for congregation study was based on faulty textual evidence.
Asking what the apostolic writers would have done when copying from a Hebrew Scripture manuscript in the Hebrew language is a legitimate question. There are at least two possible answers. One possibility is that the writers would have worded their Greek Christian Scripture quotations in such a way that there would be no confusion in ranking Jehovah (the Father) and Jesus as being equal. They could have done this by using the Tetragrammaton to refer exclusively to Jehovah and the word Kyrios to refer to Jesus as Lord. The second possibility is that, from their personal understanding of who Jesus was, they could have written in such a way that they said of Jesus exactly what could be said of Jehovah because they viewed them as being equal. These writers could certainly have done this by using the customary word for "Jehovah" in the Greek Septuagint (which is the Greek word Kyrios) for Jesus as "Lord" without adding the Tetragrammaton to uniquely identify the Father. Asking which of these two options the Christian Scripture authors chose is legitimate and will help us to better understand who Jesus is. However, insisting that we already know the answer because of our own theology is not appropriate. The way we know what the Christian Scripture writers intended to say is by studying the best manuscript evidence of what they actually wrote. On the other hand, if we must argue that the manuscript evidence has been irreparably altered, we must then admit that we no longer have God's inspired revelation today.
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