The New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures is published by the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania, a legal corporation used by Jehovah's Witnesses to print Bibles and Bible related publications.
Released in a series of installments as translation work was completed, the first volume to be released was the New World Translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures on August 2, 1950. It was not until 1963 that the entire Bible, both the Hebrew-Aramaic (Old Testament) and the Christian Greek Scriptures (New Testament) were released in a single volume.
Previous to beginning the translation work of the New World Translation, Jehovah's Witnesses quoted from either the King James Bible or the American Standard Version in their publications. Although the New World Translation has become the primary translation in Jehovah's Witness publications they continue to make use of other translations in their publications.
In the foreword to 1963 release, the anonymous translation committee stated that their method of translation was with the goal of being as literal as possible to the point of understandableness. The language is intended to be modern, when compared to the archaic English of the King James.
The completed 1963 edition ran 3,646 pages and included thousands of footnotes, cross-references, an appendix that outlined the translators rationale behind specific decisions made in the translation process, and an index of Bible words. Today the New World Translation is offered in soft cover editions, including a pocket sized version, or a hard-cover reference version that contains over 125,000 marginal references.
According to The Watchtower of August 15, 2006, this translation is now available in whole or in part, in 57 languages including:
An on-line English version (absent marginal references, appendices, etc.) is available at the Jehovah's Witnesses Official Web Site.
In addition to the aforementioned appendices and marginal references, The New World Translation features consistency in translation choices throughout the text. An example is the Hebrew word sheol which was translated in the King James Version 31 times as "hell," 31 times as "grave," and 3 times as "pit". The New world Translation uniformly leaves the word untranslated.
Changes in language from the 17th century English used by the King James Version and the modern language of the The New World Translation can be seen in the following examples:
- "suffered" becomes "allowed" (Genesis 31:7)
- "was bolled" becomes "had flower buds" (Exodus 9:31)
- "spoilers" becomes "pillagers" (Judges 2:14)
- "ear his ground" becomes "do his plowing" (1 Samuel 8:12)
- "shambles" becomes "meat market" (1 Corinthians 10:25)
- "letteth" becomes "acting as a restraint" (2 Thessalonians 2:7)
Because of the choices available to translators, no two translations of the same text will necessarily read alike. The following items are considered to be the more controversial translation decisions made in The New World Translation.
- The Divine Name in the Christian Greek Scriptures Given their firm belief in the use of the Divine Name Jehovah, the translators sought to restore it whenever doing so was based on available manuscripts and/or fragments. As a result the Christian Greek Scriptures portion of the The New World Translation features Jehovah 237 times.
- In supporting their use of the Jehovah, the translators note in Appendix 1D of the Reference edition, that early Christian writers such as Matthew and Peter would have relied on either Hebrew copies of Scriptures then available or the Greek Septuagint. These sources would have naturally included the Tetragrammaton (הוהי ), although the custom of the day was to use the word Adonai.
- They then quote George Howard (University of Georgia) who wrote in Journal of Biblical Literature (Vol. 96, 1977, p. 63: “Recent discoveries in Egypt and the Judean Desert allow us to see first hand the use of God’s name in pre-Christian times. These discoveries are significant for N[ew] T[estament] studies in that they form a literary analogy with the earliest Christian documents and may explain how NT authors used the divine name. In the following pages we will set forth a theory that the divine name, הוהי (and possibly abbreviations of it), was originally written in the NT quotations of and allusions to the O[ld] T[estament] and that in the course of time it was replaced mainly with the surrogate [abbreviation for Ky′ri·os, “Lord”]. This removal of the Tetragram[maton], in our view, created a confusion in the minds of early Gentile Christians about the relationship between the ‘Lord God’ and the ‘Lord Christ’ which is reflected in the MS tradition of the NT text itself.”
- John 1:1 - "and the Word was a god" A proof-text used in support of the Trinity doctrine, The New World Translation translates the Greek text in a manner that does not state Jesus Christ (The Word) is God.
- In the original Greek, John 1:1 uses the word the-os´ in two places. Once preceded by the definite article ho and once without the definite article. Where the definite article indicates a specific individual "the God", the lack of a definite article indicates a quality possessed by the one being described; in this case the Word. In Greek grammar, the lack of a definite article results in the predicate being considered "anarthrous"  (without a definite article).
- Philip B. Harner wrote in the Journal of Biblical Literature in 1973 "with an anarthrous predicate preceding the verb ... they indicate that the logos has the nature of theos."
- Other translations rendering John 1:1 in a similar fashion
- The Emphatic Diaglott - English/Greek Interlinear
- In a beginning was the Word, and the Word was with the God, and a god was the Word.
- The Complete Bible, An American Translation Edgar J. Goodspeed (1939)
- In the beginning the Word existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was divine.
- Das Evangelium nach Johannes Siegfried Schulz (translated from German)
- "and a god (or, of a divine kind) was the Word"
- Das Evangelium nach Johannes Jürgen Becker (translated from German)
- "and a god was the Logos"
The New World Translation has been reviewed by numerous individuals and groups over the years with mixed results. Those that object most to the translation include those who hold deeply divergent theological viewpoints from Jehovah's Witnesses and tend to be most critical of the religion. These include Drs. John Ankerberg and John Weldon who wrote that the "translation must not be trusted to accurately convey God's Word because of it's unrelenting biases in translation". This is because of the translation's use of the divine name, Jehovah in both the Hebrew and Christian Greek scriptures (see Controversy section above).
On the other hand, Jason BeDuhn, associate professor of religious studies at Northern Arizona University (Flagstaff, AZ), examined the The New World Translation along with eight other translation. Although critical of some translation choices made, the professor noted The New World Translation as a "remarkably good" translation that is "better by far" and "consistently better" than some of the others considered. He concluded that the translation is "one of the most accurate English translations of the New Testament currently available" and the "most accurate of the translations compared". Where translators may feel pressure to paraphrase or expand on what the Bible says, BeDuhn commented that The New World Translation is different in "the greater accuracy of the NW as a literal, conservative translation of the original expressions of the New Testament writers." - Truth in Translation: Accuracy and Bias in English Translations of the New Testament (2003)
- Other translations reviewed include: King James Version, New International Version, English Standard Version, New Revised Standard Version, New American Standard Bible, Amplified Bible, Today's English Version, Living Bible.
- Truth in Translation: Accuracy and Bias in English Translations of the New Testament (©2003, University Press of America)
- New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures (©1984,1963, Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society)