The Jehovah’s Witnesses group was first formed in 1872 by Charles Taze Russell and seem to have become famous the world over for what they DON’T do.
- They don’t celebrate people’s birthdays (no, really! What a shame, eh?)
- They don’t allow blood transfusions
- They don’t believe the Bible teaches that the Father, the Son and the Spirit are each persons of the one God. This is often called the doctrine of the Trinity
Jehovah’s Witnesses are taught to believe a form of Arianism. Arius was a Christian leader who lived in the second century and put forward a view of Jesus that was challenged strongly by the early Christian church leadership – he taught that Jesus was a created creature rather than God himself. This led to the development of the Nicene Creed in 325 AD which attempted to clearly document the Christian Church’s understanding of Jesus’ identity as taught by the New Testament. Arius refused to sign up to this statement – and so lost his job in the Church.
“Jesus Christ, the Son of God, begotten of the Father, that is from the substance of the Father. He is God from God, light from light, true God from true God, begotten not made, of one substance with the Father.” Nicene Creed
There’s one God who is revealed in Scripture in three persons. Father, Son and Spirit. In other words – Jesus is not a created being. Although he experienced a miraculous human birth – he is and was God before that birth. And he still is today. Mind bending stuff.
The Witnesses have stuck to their guns and persist with Arianism to this day. And to justify their position they have their own Bible Translation that they work from – the New World Translation – that has been written to support their Arian position. So here’s something else the JW will not do. They WILL NOT use a Bible translation UNLESS it is the New World Translation. To my mind, this is a cause for suspicion right there.
The problem as I see it – is this. They have written their translation in such a way as to try to avoid seeing Jesus as the second person of the Godhead. The problem is that – the Bible is FULL to the brim of this teaching! To try and remove it all…you would need to throw the Bible away and start again from scratch. Marcion attempted this in the first century, but his movement died out quickly. Rather than taking this approach, instead the JW translators have tried to “plug the holes” as they see them in the Bible text. But like a sieve with hundreds of holes in – you can’t plug them all. It’s a pointless task – the water…or the truth will always leak through the sieve eventually. And it’s the same with the Bible. The truth will always leak through…however hard you try to stop it.
Here’s a great example.
Lets look at the JW translation of John chapter 1 verses 1 to 3 (you can find the 2013 edition of the NWT here -> http://www.jw.org/en/publications/bible/nwt/books/john/1/)
What’s the problem? Well look at verse 1. Speaking of Jesus, their translation says, “the Word was with God, and the Word was a god.” The JW understanding of Jesus’ identity is coming thru in their translation here. They view Jesus Christ as a being that God has created. If that created being is with God…then he cannot also BE God himself. So they are forced to describe Jesus as “a god”.
This is an example of the JW trying to plug the holes in the sieve. Look how a typical New Testament translation puts this verse:
In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. (John 1:1, NLT)
Do you see the difference in the translation? The Word is not “a god”. The Word was with God, and the Word was God.
Is the JW New World Translation a good translation of John chapter 1? Does it accurately represent what the original Greek intends to say? According to Greek Scholars like Bill Mounce, no it isn’t. And the reason is very simple.
There is NO INDEFINITE ARTICLE in Greek. “a god” is an impossible phrase in Greek.
This might sound tricky…but it’s really simple. Look at an everyday example. If I say in English that, “I read the book” then I would be referring to my book using the DEFINITE article – “the”. However – if instead I said, “I read a book” – then I would be referring to my book with the INDEFINITE ARTICLE – “a”.
The New World Translation refers to the Word in verse 1 using the INDEFINITE ARTICLE – “the Word was a god.” But that cannot be what the Greek text said originally. Why? Because there is NO INDEFINITE ARTICLE in Greek. The verse cannot have said this.
Actually if you translate the Greek into English word by word (thank you Doctor Mounce!) the text reads…
In [the] beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and God was the Word (John 1:1, MOUNCE)
The section in dispute actually reads “God was the Word”. Can you see why the JW would object to that? So they have squeezed an “a” into their text to change the meaning OF the text.
So the New World Translation of John 1:1-3 does not work for language reasons. It is not accurate – don’t believe it.
But it goes deeper than this. The New World Translation version of John 1:1-3 simply does does not make any sense. What do I mean? Well – let’s look again at the passage and look this time at verse 3.
Verse 3 of the NWT tells us that all things came into existence through him. Not a single thing that does exists began to exist without his activity. Who is him? The Word!
Here is the irony. The JW translation breaks verse 1, but the truth still seeps though in their Bible. Because John 1:3 restates AGAIN what John 1:1 is trying to teach.
- He is responsible for creating all things. If all things were created by Jesus – then he cannot also be one of the things that was created because he is personally doing the creation!
- the Word is not created, rather he is God.
- all things came into existence through him. Who is he? He is the Word, he is Jesus, he is God.
You will often hear this expression outside a court of law – “Truth will out!” However hard people try to bend the Bible to their own will (and this is a risk facing all of us…myself included)…God’s truth WILL come through in the end. I want to grasp his truth…because I know that it will do me good! I can’t think of anything worse than shutting the door on God’s truth for other people. But even when people try to do this, God’s good, positive and life changing truth is powerful – it will burst through anyway!