A BIBLE TRANSLATION PRODUCED BY JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES
BENJAMIN KEDAR AND THE NEW WORLD TRANSLATION OF THE HEBREW SCRIPTURES
In the March 1st, 1991 issue of The Watchtower, pages 26-30, an article appeared entitled
The "New World Translation" Scholarly and Honest.
On page 30 we read:
"In fact, the New World Translation is a scholarly work. In 1989, Professor Benjamin Kedar of Israel said:
"In my linguistic research in connection with the Hebrew Bible and translation, I often refer to the English edition as what is known as the New World Translation. In doing so, I find my feeling repeatedly confirmed that this kind of work reflects an honest endeavor to achieve an understanding of the text that is as accurate as possible. Giving evidence of a broad command of the original language, it renders the original words into a second language understandably without deviating unnecessarily from the specific structure of the Hebrew....Every statement of language allows for a certain latitude in interpreting or translating. So the linguistic solution in any given case may be open to debate. But I have never discovered in the New World Translation any biased intent to read something into the text that it does not contain."
Following this quotation of Professor Kedar's comments in the above WT article, he received much mail from those who wanted to know if he had been quoted correctly and by those who had a different view point from his. He replied to some, but, from a certain time, sent out a statement instead. We possess a copy, which he had kindly sent to us in November, 1995, which we will print out in it's entirety-the Professor had signed it and in his own writing had written, "permission to be published is granted only if quoted in full!". You will be able to see that this Professor has his own views on religion and religious groups, large or small, including Jehovah's Witnesses. The main point however should not be lost. This Professor is a scholar in his own right and has expressed an opinion in regard to a translation of the Hebrew Scriptures-The New World Translation. Judge for yourselves what that opinion is. Herewith is that statement. All we ask is that you read it carefully. Where you see square brackets those words therein are ours. They are only to aid the reader with the meaning of terms they might not be familiar with. We have also smaller cased his statement after section 1) only to high-light that which is the pertinent section to the title of this page:
"Since several individuals and institutions have addressed me concerning the following matter, I make this statement; henceforth it will be sent instead of a personal letter to anyone appealing to me to clarify my position.
1) Several years ago I quoted the so-called New World Translation among several Bible versions in articles that dealt with purely philological [pertaining to the study/science of languages] questions(such as the rendition of the causative hiphil, of the particple qotel). In the course of my comparative studies I found the NWT rather illuminating: it gives evidence of an acute awareness of the structural characteristics of hebrew as well as an honest effort to faithfully render these in the target [English] language. A translation is bound to be a compromise, and as such it's details are open to criticism; this applies to the NWT too. In the portion corresponding to the hebrew Bible, however, I have never come upon an obviously erroneous rendition which would find it's explanation in a dogmatic bias. Repeatedly I have asked the antagonists of the Watchtower-Bible who turned to me for a clarification of my views, to name specific verses for a renewed scrutiny. This was either not done or else the verse submitted (e.g. Genesis 4:13, 6:3, 10:9, 15:5, 18:20 etc.) did not prove the point, namely a tendentious [with a purposed aim/biased] translation.
2) I beg to make clear that I do not feel any sympathy for any sect and this includes Jehovah's Witnesses. Of course, my mistrust is not directed against the individual member of such sect but rather against the organisation that manipulates him and puts forward its dogmas and rules as the ultimate truth. It should be conceded, however, that the groups and organisations that fiercely oppose the witnesses do not behave any better. On the whole, synagogue, church and mosque also tend to exhibit dogmatic arrogance coupled with intolerance of and enmity with other confessions.
3)I cannot help expressing my deep conviction that the search for truth will never benefit by linguistic quibble. Whether the author using the word naephaesh denoted 'soul' as opposed to body(Lev 17:11) or meant something else, whether 'almah' means 'virgin' or 'young woman'(Is 7:14) is of great interest to philologists and historians of religion; an argument for or against blood transfusion or the virgin-birth of Jesus respectively, cannot be derived from it.
4)Obviously, it is man's destiny to make the choice of his way a matter of conscience and to the best of his knowledge. There exists no simple set of rules such as could be learned from the mouth of a guru or the pages of an ancient venerable book. Those who pretend to act according to an infallible guide, more often than not interpret the texts in accordance with their preconceived wishes and notions.
Sometimes, H. H. Rowley, an eminent Old Testament scholar from England, is quoted and who wrote regarding the first volume of the New World Translation Of The Hebrew Scriptures:
"The translation is marked by a wooden literalism which will only exasperate any intelligent reader - if such it finds - and instead of showing reverence for the Bible which the translators profess, it is an insult to the Word of God" (Rowley, H.H., "Jehovah's Witnesses' Translation of the Bible" The Expository Times 67:107, Jan. 1956).
This is interesting on two accounts. First of
all Rowley describes the Bible as "the Word of God."
Yet he himself in his own works upon the Hebrew (O.T.) Scriptures
clearly shows he did not think that Moses wrote the first 5
books, that Daniel did not write Daniel, etc and that there are
numerous discrepancies and inconsistencies throughout this part
of the Bible. So, we cannot take too seriously Rowley's own
"reverence" for "the Word of God"!
Secondly, the literalism of the NWT was intended! True,
it sometimes does not make easy reading-simply because it is a
translation meant for study purposes. And to this end it
has been highly successful. For a good discussion as to the merits
of a literal translation and whether the NWT has accomplished
what it set out to do (which seems to have been missed by
Rowley, that is, "It has been our endeavor to make this
translation as literal as possible to the point of
understandableness. The aim is to convey the flavor of the
ancient Hebrew realm, its way of thinking, reasoning, talking,
social dealings, etc. This has restricted our indulgence in
paraphrase, our saying a thing as we think the original speaker
or writer should have said it; and we have been careful not to
modernize the rendering to such an extent as to alter the ancient
background beyond recognizing it. So the reader will find quite a
bit of idiomatic Hebrew."-New World of the Hebrew
Scriptures, volume 1, 1953, page 9.) please see Furuli page
293, 294, to quote him partially: "[On another quote
from Rowley, "How Not to Translate the Bible," Expository
Times 65(1953-54, pp. 41-42] is especially interesting [as
used by Kubo & Specht, So Many Versions? 20th Century
English Version of the Bible, 1983, p.110] as it accents the
rather negative light in which they [Kubo & Specht] review the
NWT....Such a quote sows doubts in the minds of the readers
because it conveys the thought that the translators did not
master the Biblical languages which they translated, nor the
English language. What the reader is not told is that Rowley uses
the particular premise that only idiomatic translations are
warranted. But it is bad methodology to use such a premise when
evaluating a literal translation, particularly when the premise
is not stated. A translation should be judged on the basis of its
own merits, and not on the basis of personal viewpoints as to
what a Bible translation should look like.
NWT Online Home
Recent Additions/Updates NWT
Kedar and the NWT "Truth
in Translation: Accuracy and Bias in English Translations of the New
the N.T. call Jesus "God"" "Jesus
as "theos."" John
or Stake? Luke
and Hebrews 1 Romans
1:15 "all other things"? Coming
or Presence? New
World Translation Renderings. On
the form of the Divine Name 'Jehovah'. Philippians
20:28 "...the blood of his own [Son]" Revelation
3:14 "...the beginning of the creation by God." Proskyneo:
Always "worship"? Hebrew
'worship or obeisance'
does it matter? Zechariah
17:3 "This means everlasting life...." Pages
27:50-"pneuma," "yielded up his spirit."
2:9 "divine nature." Revelation
Criticisms Answered. 1
John 5:20. Who
is the "only true God."?' The
Comma'.-1 John 5:7 The
Trinity Doctrine- Biblically Founded? An
Example of one Web critic of the NWT ! Trinity
'Proof Texts' refuted. 'Babylon'
LXX of Isaiah" John
'Trinity Brochure' J.H.Thayer
'Trinity Brochure' H.
Chadwick and the 'Trinity Brochure' Translation