We heartily recommend the "New World Translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures," published in 1950 by the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society, Brooklyn, New York.
Here we have for the modest price of $1.50 eight hundred pages of interest to the lover of the New Testament. The type is beautifully clear, the chapter numbers prominent, and the language is throughout picturesque and striking.
The translation is evidently the work of skilled and clever scholars, who have sought to bring out as much of the true sense of the Greek text as the English language is capable of expressing.
The version aims to keep to one English meaning for each major Greek word, and to be as literal as possible. The presence or absence of the Greek definite article is given due attention and weight. The Greek prepositions and cases often receive a very realistic rendering.
One of the most useful and necessary features is to be found in the rendering of the Greek present or continuous tense. Thus, Eph. 5:2, "go on walking in love;" 5:10, "Keep on making sure of what is acceptable to the Lord;" 5:17, "but go on perceiving what the will of Jehovah is;" 5:18, "but keep getting filled with spirit;" 5:25, "Husbands, continue loving your wives;" 6:10, "go on acquiring power in the Lord;" Phil. 2:5, "Keep this mental attitude in you which was also in Christ Jesus;" 2:12, "keep working out your own salvation with fear and trembling;" 3:1, "continue rejoicing in the Lord;" Col. 2:6, "go on walking in union with him;" 3:1, "go on seeking the things above;" 3:13, "Continue putting up with one another and forgiving one another freely;" 3:16, "Keep on teaching and admonishing one another with psalms, praises to God. . ;" Luke 6:36, "Continue becoming compassionate;" Rev. 9:6, "but death keeps fleeing from them;" Luke 11:9, "Keep on asking.'. . . keep on seeking. . . . keep on knocking;" John 21:22, "you continue following me:" Heb. 13:18, "Carry on prayer for us;" Acts 26:14, "To keep kicking against the goads makes it hard for you."
Examples of this rendering are very numerous. No other version appears to have exhibited this fine feature with such fulness and frequency. Every example deserves to be studied carefully.
Another feature which gives unfailing delight is the rendering of the Greek ginOskO, "I am getting to know." This word refers to knowledge which can grow, which can be gradually acquired or learnt; not the knowledge of intuition or instinct. Rotherham gives the proper sense frequently, "get to know," or "come to know." The New World version renders at 1 John 2:5, "By this we gain the knowledge that we are in union with him." Verse 13, "you have come to know the Father." Ch. 4:8, "he that does not love has not come to know God, because God is love." John 14:9, "Philip, have you not come to know me?" Acts 17:19 really expresses the modesty of the Athenians who asked Paul, "Can we get to know what this new teaching is which is spoken by you?" Very literally, even better, "Are we able to get to know. .." This must have given Paul a very good opening.
Even the Lord could get to know things, as He must be thoroughly human, apart from sin. Our version renders at Matt. 12:15, "Understanding this, Jesus withdrew from there." We could wish that at Acts 21:37, instead of "Can you speak Greek?" the full sense had been shewn as Rotherham has it, "With Greek art thou becoming acquainted?" The C.V. is strangely bald here, "You know Greek. .." Here we have a historical sidelight. Paul's Greek seemed to be uncouth to the Roman captain. He seemed to be one who was only picking up Greek.
Perhaps readers may be startled to learn that God even gets to know things. Some will say this is impossible. God knows everything already! But what does He say about the matter Himself? Where can we learn anything about His mind if not in the sacred scriptures? Is not the true science of God only to be discovered in what He tells us about Himself? For the Lord to tell the Pharisees that God knew their hearts is not nearly so effective as to tell them, "yet God is getting to know your hearts" (Luke 16:15). The process with God is a continuous one, exactly as Psalm 139 declares. He gets to know us from day to day. So also at John 10:14-15 we ought to read, "I am getting to know My very own, and My very own are getting to know Me. According as the Father is getting to know Me, I also am getting to know the Father." We should understand 1 Cor. 3:20 and 2. Tim. 2:19 similarly. In each of these cases Rotherham translates by "takes note," but this is hardly the full sense. The New World Version reads "knows" in each case.
At Col. 2:2 our version has a first class rendering, simple and clear, "the sacred secret of God, namely, Christ." Some versions ruin the sense here unnecessarily.
Phil. 4:7 is well expressed, "the peace of God that excels all thought."
The word usually rendered "justify" is generally translated very correctly as "declare righteous," which is a very great improvement. The word for the Cross is rendered "torture stake," which is another improvement. Elders become "older men of influence."
Luke 23:43 is well rendered, "Truly I tell you today, You will be with me in Paradise." This is a big improvement upon the reading of most versions.
The Greek word estin (is) is very often rendered "means," and this is reasonable as the usage in English and Greek is here identical. Whether the word signifies "is precisely" or merely "means" is left to the intelligence of the reader, as in the case of "This is My body." We dare not argue from Rev. 19:9, that "These are (in a sense) the true sayings of God," while ch. 22:8 means "These words (positively are) faithful and true." Another reason must be found for the presence or absence of the word IS in Greek.
Salvation, the abstract quality, is always sOtEria, but surely the concrete sOtErion, occurring four times, must be different. Our version shews the difference beautifully, and is probably the first version to do so, at least in three cases. Thus, Luke 2: 30, Simeon says "my eyes have seen your means of saving." Luke 3:6, John proclaims "all humanity will see the saving means of God." Acts 28:28, "Therefore let it be known to you that this the means by which God saves has been sent out to the nations; they will certainly listen to it." The word means not salvation, but the salvation message. the work connected with the message. Eph. 6:17 should therefore be understood as "Receive the helmet of the salvation work."
At Luke 16:16 our version reads "the kingdom of God is being declared as good news." This is much more accurate than the Concordant Version, which says "the evangel of the kingdom of God is being brought." There is no noun evangel in the Greek at all.
Greek prepositions are often rendered very expressively. The important little word ek (out of) is occasionally better explained as "part," or "on the part of." John 3:25, "a dispute arose on the part of the disciples of John with a Jew." John 17:14, "they are no part of the world, just as I am no part of the world." John 18:36, "My kingdom is no part of this world." `1 Cor. 12:15, "I am no part of the body. . ." So the earliest Concordant Version rendered at Rom. 12:18, "on your part," correctly.
Like other modern versions, the New World sometimes renders en (in) more fully, as "in union with" (as at Eph. 1:3, 4, 11; 2:6, 7; Phm. 23; Phil. 3:9), thus, "in union with Christ." In 2. Tim. 3:12 this becomes "in association with Christ Jesus." Elsewhere, this is rendered "in connection with," as 2. Tim. 2:1 "the undeserved kindness that is in connection with Christ Jesus." There is no doubt that the expression "in Christ Jesus" conveys little to most readers.
The word epi (on) is frequently rendered "on the basis of," when it is followed in the Greek by a dative case. This is very much better than "in My name" at Matt. 18;5; 24:5; Luke 21:8; while "upon the basis of this name" is a distinct improvement at Acts 4:17; 5:28. At Phil. 3:9 it is vastly better to read "the righteousness which issues from God on the basis of faith."
The same construction is to be found in that hitherto unexplained verse, Heb. 9:26. Might not the literal meaning be, "Yet now once, on the basis of a conclusion of the eons, for repudiation of sin through His sacrifice, He has been manifested." He was manifested with that great object in view.
James 1:15 has the expressive rendering, "in turn, sin, . . . brings forth death." Luke 20:41, "In turn He said to them." In turn is often a very good rendering of de (yet, now). Ivan Panin used this in his Numeric N.T. in the first chapter of Matthew, verses 2-16, with singular effect. Thus, Isaac in turn begat Jacob.
James 2:14 is much clearer if we read as does the New World, "That faith cannot save him." The definite article before faith means something. There is not the least conflict between Paul and James over the matter of faith and works. Every difference disappears when the text is minutely scrutinized.
A somewhat peculiar translation is given to the Greek word for eon or age, "system of things." Yet the adjective for eonian is usually" everlasting," while" the eons of the eons" is simply rendered "for ever and ever."
The rendering of the Greek word charis as "undeserved kindness" is also unfortunate. Most versions translate by "grace," "favour," and "thanks." The word by itself does not connote anything undeserved, although of course one might say all that God does for us is undeserved. The true inner meaning of charis is undoubtedly agreeableness. God's unchanging attitude to His people is one of complete agreeableness, kindly goodwill, which nothing can alter. This is a quality which they are often slow to appreciate or delight in. God's agreeableness is also something joyful, because charis is closely related to chara, which means joy. Human beings can express their "thanks" to God (Rom. 6:17; 1. Cor. 15:57; 2. Cor. 2:14), but how could that mean that we shew "undeserved kindness" to God? And how could Jesus have progressed in wisdom and stature, and undeserved kindness with God and humanity (Luke 2:52)? He progressed in agreeableness with God and humanity. His attitude always was one of gracious goodwill, and still is. In giving thanks, we express our agreeableness.
The New World Version proves our point by its reading at 1. Peter 1:19, "this is an agreeable thing," if one suffers unjustly for conscience' sake.
We should like to see all our readers in possession of the New World version. It will be a valuable addition to your library. It escapes the frigidity produced by the over rigidity of being too strictly concordant.
Like the first volume, this one keeps up the reputation for liveliness and expressiveness of diction. I would recommend it as an honest and straightforward effort to render Holy Writ into modern English. No attempt appears to be made to press any special doctrines or theories.
The type is very clear, and another very important feature is the large chapter numbers, a great help when many and quick references are required.
About twenty-five or thirty years ago one of my problems was the occasional use in Hebrew of the definite article before the word God. Sometimes this is found (ha-Elohim) and sometimes not, when Elohim stands alone. Why should the Hebrew text at Gen. 6:2 state that the sons of the God "began to notice the daughters of men," as the N.W. translation so significantly puts it?
Although the first volume of the N.W. Translation marks the occurrences of the definite article when found before the word God, the second volume goes a step further, and translates as "the (true) God," adding a footnote. This may well be the solution of the problem, which scholars do not appear to have faced. Such a rendering seems most appropriate in 1. Kings 18:21, 24, 37, 39, when Jehovah proved by fire that He was "the true God." In Nehemiah 13:1, 7, 9, 11, the expression is also very realistic. Thus, in v. 1, "and the Moabite should not come into the congregation of The (true) God to time indefinite." Here the last three words are much more expressive than "for the eon" or "for ever." In verse 11 we read, "Why has the house of The (true) God been neglected?"
The old term Belial and "sons of Belial" has been superseded by the words "good for nothing." This is a distinct improvement. Such people were unprofitable or worthless. Spiritually the great mass of humanity has always been worthless. At 1. Sam. 2:12 the N.W. Version reads "Now the sons of Eli were scoundrels," but a footnote says the literal sense is "sons of Belial (or, worthlessness)." Perhaps the expression scoundrels says a little too much, though these sons of Eli certainly were scoundrels in addition to being worthless.
One of the most important terms in the Hebrew Bible is the word mishphat, commonly translated judgment, but occasionally right, manner, ordinance, order, custom, law, etc. It might be said that this is the most difficult Hebrew word to render into English, as I found about twenty-five years ago. Mr. Otis Q. Sellers in "The Word of Truth" has rightly called attention to the great importance of arriving at a correct understanding of this Hebrew word, found about 400 times. He he suggested as the meaning "established order," "custom," or "manner." Very often the Greek Old Testament uses for this word krisis, a judging, and occasionally dikaiosunE, righteousness. But it also uses occasionally and more frequently in Ezekiel, the word dikaiOma, which means a "righteous standard" (as in Romans 5:16, 18).
The N.W. Version makes use of the following words: judicial decision, due right, rightful due, rule, regulation, what is right, judgment.
Our problem now is to alight upon one single English word or expression which will take in all these thoughts and cover every occurrence. Until we can do that, we have not discovered the prime and root meaning of the Hebrew word. Unfortunately, the Revised Standard Version has failed us here: it uses the following words, judgment, justice, ordinance, what is right, specifications, kind (of man), custom, law, sentence, cause, and perhaps others. No English word ever means exactly what its nearest relative means.
1. Sam. 24 is very touchingly and dramatically expressed in the N.W. Version,—how David could have captured and slain Saul the King, but spared his life. The next chapter is also very well told, concerning David's connections with Nabal and his wife Abigail. I quote verses 28-30, spoken by Abigail: "Pardon, please, the transgression of your slave girl, because Jehovah will without fail make for my lord a lasting house, because the wars of Jehovah are what my lord is fighting, and, as for evil, it will not be found in you throughout your days. When man rises up to pursue you and look for your soul, the soul of my lord will certainly prove to be wrapped up in the bag of life with Jehovah your God, but, as for the soul of your enemies, he will sling it forth as from inside the hollow of the sling. And it must occur that, because Jehovah will do to my lord the good toward you according to all that he has spoken, he certainly will commission you as leader over Israel." There is no doubt that Abigail was "good at discernment" (v. 3), and full of "sensibleness" (v. 33), even though it meant condemning her own husband as "this good-for-nothing man Nabal" (v. 25).
1. Sam. 28 should satisfy those who are in doubt regarding the being whom the spirit medium called up at the behest of King Saul. Saul asked her to "Bring up Samuel for me." V. 12 reads, 'When the woman saw "Samuel" she began crying out. ..' Evidently a spirit was called up who represented Samuel. I agree completely with the inverted commas around the name Samuel five times in this chapter. That is 'exactly how I have been explaining his personality. Samuel was dead, but a spirit impersonated him.
A new expression comes before us when we read of the lords of the Philistines. The N.W. Version calls them "axis lords." This means, I suppose, that these lords governed a certain radius of country each. The same Philistine term (seren) is rendered axle at 1. Kings 7:30. Now an axis is a kind of axle or radius. The Oxford Hebrew Gesenius Lexicon calls these lords "tyrants." But "axis lords" seems a good translation, especially when one discovers that the word seren is obviously related to the Hebrew word ser (pointed to read sohar), found in Gen. 39 and 40, the prison, or rather "round (house)." Each of these Philistine lords was thought to have ruled over a certain number of cities.
A fine thought is found in the Song of David, 2. Sam.
And you will give me your shield of salvation,
And it is your humility that makes me great.
Is it not the humility of Christ that makes us great? Few people can think of God as being humble. But if pride is of the evil one, then humility is of God.
According to 1. Kings 18:21, Elijah said to the people on Mount Carmel, "How long will you be limping upon two different opinions?" This is very much as the R.S.V. reads. It is of profound interest to note that the word for "limp" (phasach) is also rendered Passover. I have never seen this explained, but suggest that the root means something like "hesitate" or "go with hesitation." Would this not suit Exodus 12:13, "When I see the blood I shall go with hesitation over you"?
On page 295 (1. Kings 20) there is a Note referring to the important fact that in fragments of Aquila's Greek version of the book of Kings made in the second century A.D. the Divine Name Jehovah is found written in Hebrew characters, in the midst of the Greek text. This has been known for some considerable time, but ought to be better known.
The four acrostics of the name Jehovah in the book of Esther are shewn in foot-notes. Dr. Bullinger explained the form of these in Appendix 60 of his Companion Bible. It has often been observed that this book contains no Divine Names, even though the Median King Ahasuerus is mentioned 192 times and named 29 times. In each of the four acrostics there are four Hebrew words, in consecutive order. These are all the acrostics in the book, except one in ch. 7:5, which reveals the name EHYEH, meaning "I shall come to be" or "I shall prove to be," as the N.W. renders. The Name Jehovah means "He will come to be." No two acrostics are alike in their construction. The first two have the Divine Name formed by the initial Hebrew letters of the four words; the last two form the Name by the final Hebrew letters of the four words. The first and third have the Name spelt backwards; the second and fourth have it spelt forward.
In the two chapters, 2. Samuel 7 and 1. Chron. 17, King David expressed a hint that he might build a House for Jehovah. The reply, given through Nathan the prophet was that one of David's sons would accomplish this, but Jehovah would built the House of David. To David there was also given an unconditional promise of the throne to David's House "unto obscurity" (ad olam). Evidently David understood this to mean that Messiah was to spring from his line.
How then are we to understand 2. Sam. 7:19 and 1. Chron. 17:17? The former reads in the N.W. Version, "As though this should be something little in your eyes, 0 Lord Jehovah, yet you also speak respecting the house of your servant down to a distant future time, and this is the law given for mankind, 0 Lord Jehovah." In the latter passage the N.W. Version reads "down to a distant future time and you have looked on me according to the opportunity of the man in the ascendancy, 0 Jehovah God." The 1611 A.V. reads in Samuel, "And is this the manner (margin, Hebrew, law) of man, 0 Lord GOD?" and in Chron. "according to the estate of a man of high degree, 0 LORD God." The R.S. Version reads in Samuel, " . . . a great while to come, and hast shown me future generations (footnote, Heb. this is the law for man) 0 Lord GOD," while in Chron. it reads as in Samuel, but a footnote says the Hebrew is uncertain. Rotherham renders by "This then is the law of manhood (footnote, humanity) 0 My Lord Yahweh! in Samuel, while in Chron. he has "according to the rank (or, order, mode) of manhood, and hast exalted me, 0 Yahweh God!"
Now the Greek Septuagint does read in Samuel "Yet this is the law (nomos) of the man." But in Chron. the Greek reading is different, "Thou takest notice of me as a vision (horasis) of a man (or, of humanity) and dost exalt me."
Might I make a suggestion, based upon the Septuagint reading? The word "law" does not fit in with the general sense of the passages. David was looking far ahead. Dr. Robert Young reads in Samuel "as a type of the man who is on high." In both passages the Hebrew speaks not of a man, but the man, and in both passages we find the word thur, pointed either as thor or thorah, the very common term for "law."
But the Septuagint reading is based upon a very different word, thar, pointed to read thoar, which is found over a dozen times only in the Hebrew Bible, generally rendered "form." and meaning appearance, or shape, or outline.
What David told Jehovah was that Jehovah had looked on him as a vision, type, adumbration of The Man, who was to spring from his own seed. Here we have a case where the LXX has preserved the original sense. The error in the Hebrew text is very ancient, as in very old Hebrew script the letter Aleph is very similar to the letter Vav, but contains one short stroke more.
The suggestion put forward is well over a hundred years old, but ought to be better known.
ALEXANDER THOMSON. Last updated 5.3.2006