The New World Translation

New Testament, 1950. Frederick W. Franz, ed., New World Translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures Rendered from the Original Language by the New World Translation Committee. Brooklyn: Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, 1950.

Bible, 1961. Frederick W. Franz, ed., The New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures, rendered from the Original Languages by the New World Bible Translation Committee. Revised A.D. 1961. Brooklyn: Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, 1961. The Old Testament was originally published in parts from 1953 to 1960. The whole was revised for the one-volume edition in 1961, and subsequently revised in 1970 and 1984.

The publisher of this version has never made public the names of the translators. But former members of the Governing Body of the Jehovah's Witnesses organization have identified the members of the committee as Nathan H. Knorr (President of the organization), Frederick W. Franz (Vice-President), George D. Gangas, and Albert D. Schroeder. According to Raymond V. Franz, the "principal translator of the Society's New World Translation" was Frederick W. Franz. (1) According to M. James Penton, "to all intents and purposes the New World Translation is the work of one man, Frederick Franz." (2) Franz afterwards became the President of the organization, from 1977 to 1992, and was responsible for the revisions.

The Forward to the first edition of the New Testament (1950) explained the need for the version, and also indicated the reason for its name: "It befits the significant time of transition from the old world to the righteous new world that translations of the Scriptures today should as far as possible eliminate the misleading influence of religious traditions which have their roots in paganism." (p.7, emphasis added.)

The New Testament adheres to the text of Westcott & Hort. It is a fairly literal translation, for the most part, but it does have some peculiar non-literal renderings. These are the result of the committee's efforts to conform the version to the doctrines of the Jehovah's Witnesses. "Jehovah" is given as a translation for kurios (Lord) in the New Testament whenever the Father is meant, but not when it refers to Christ, the Son. "Torture stake" is put instead of "cross" because the Jehovah's Witnesses believe that the cross is an idolatrous symbol introduced by the Roman Catholic Church. And because this sect teaches that Jesus Christ was merely an angel, the version shows an anti-trinitarian bias in several places.

Examples of Anti-Trinitarian bias:

Because the Jehovah's Witnesses teach that men exercise "free will" in accepting or rejecting Christ, the version also has such forced interpretations as:

In his book Crisis of Conscience Raymond Franz, a former member of the Governing Body of the Jehovah's Witnesses, describes some interesting conversations that he had with the principal translator of the version, who happened to be his uncle. He recounts that between 1965 and 1971, while engaged in preparing a Bible dictionary (published in 1971 under the title Aid to Bible Understanding), he sought guidance on a number of questions from Frederick Franz, who "was acknowledged as the organization's principal Bible scholar." We reproduce below several paragraphs from Crisis of Conscience (pages 21-24) for the light they shed upon the New World Translation and one of its translators, and also for the wise observations of the author concerning the interpretation of the Bible.

The Society's vice president, Fred Franz, was acknowledged as the organization's principal Bible scholar. On a number of occasions I went to his office to inquire about points. To my surprise he frequently directed me to Bible commentaries, saying, "Why don't you see what Adam Clarke says, or what Cooke says," or, if the subject primarily related to the Hebrew Scriptures, "what the Soncino commentaries say." Our Bethel Library contained shelf after shelf after shelf filled with such commentaries. Since they were the product of scholars of other religions, however, I had not given much importance to them, and, along with others in the department, felt some hesitancy, even distrust, as to using them. As Karl Klein, a senior member of the Writing Department, sometimes very bluntly expressed it, using these commentaries was "sucking at the t-ts of Babylon the Great," the empire of false religion according to the Society's interpretation of the great Harlot of Revelation.

The more I looked up information in these commentaries, however, the more deeply impressed I was by the firm belief in the divine inspiration of the Scriptures the vast majority expressed. I was impressed even more so by the fact that, though some were written as early as the eighteenth century, the information was generally very worthwhile and accurate. I could not help but compare this with our own publications which, often within a few years, became "out of date" and ceased to be published. It was not that I felt these commentaries to be without error by any means; but the good certainly seemed to outweigh the occasional points I felt to be mistaken.

When the subjects of "Older Man [Elder]" and "Overseer" were assigned to me, research into the Scriptures themselves soon made evident that the congregational form of supervision employed by us did not conform to the first-century arrangements. (We had no bodies of elders in our congregations; one man in each congregation was the sole "overseer.") Somewhat disturbed, I approached my uncle with the evidence. Again his response took me by surprise. "Don't try to understand the Scriptures on the basis of what you see today in the organization," he said, and added, "Keep the Aid book pure." I had always looked upon the organization as God's one channel for dispensing truth and so this counsel sounded unusual to say the least. When I pointed out that the Society's New World Translation rendering of Acts, chapter fourteen, verse 23, evidently inserted the words "to office" in connection with the appointment of elders and that this somewhat altered the sense, he said, "Why don't you check it in some other translations that may not be as biased." [Later editions of the New World Translation dropped the added phrase. The first edition had read: "Moreover, they appointed older men to office for them in the congregation and, offering prayer with fastings, they committed them to Jehovah in whom they had become believers."] I walked out of his office wondering if I had actually heard what I had heard. In future days I was to remind him of these statements on more than one occasion during Governing Body sessions.

That conversation strongly affected my approach to Scripture. I deeply appreciated the integrity toward Scriptural truth his remarks indicated. I began to appreciate more than ever before how vitally important context was in discerning the meaning of any part of Scripture, and that realization seemed to be true of others of the group who were working regularly on the Aid project. We also came to realize the need to let the Bible define its own terms rather than simply taking some previously held view or letting an English dictionary definition control. We began to make greater use of the Hebrew and Greek lexicons in the Bethel library, and concordances that were based on the original language words rather than on English translations.

It was an education and it was also very humbling, for we came to appreciate that our understanding of Scripture was far less than we had thought, that we were not the advanced Bible scholars we thought we were. I personally had been on such a "treadmill" of activity over the previous twenty-five years that, although reading through the Bible several times, I had never been able to do such serious, detailed research into the Scriptures, in fact never felt great need to do so since it was assumed that others were doing it for me. The two courses at Gilead School I had attended were so tightly programmed that they gave little time for meditation, for unhurried investigation and analysis.

Now having both time and access to the extra Bible helps, the lexicons, commentaries, Hebrew and Greek concordances, and so forth, was an aid. But above all it was seeing the need always to let the context guide, always to let the Scriptures themselves control, that made the major difference. There was no overnight change of viewpoint but, over a period of years, a gradual deepening of appreciation of the crucial need to let God's Word speak for itself to the fullest extent possible. I could see why those one-hundred and two-hundred-year-old commentaries in our Bethel library were comparatively timeless in their value. The very fact of their verse-by-verse approach more or less obligated them to stay within the contextual meaning and thereby considerably restricted them from taking excursions into sectarian views or interpretive flights of fancy.

Thus the material in the Aid book relating to elders and the congregational direction in Bible times was very different from the position then held by Jehovah's Witnesses, where a more or less "monarchical" arrangement had prevailed. The Scriptural arrangement of bodies of elders had been summarily ended in 1932 by Judge Rutherford due to a lack of cooperation on the part of some elders with the Society's programs and policies. His position as President gave Rutherford the necesary authority to take such a stand and all congregations were invited to vote for the disbanding of bodies of elders and their replacement by a Society-appointed "Service Director." For the next forty years there were no bodies of elders in the congregations. That is why the New World Translation of the Bible published by the Society in the 1950's regularly used the rendering "older men" rather than "elders," a then officially discredited term.


1. Raymond V. Franz, Crisis of Conscience (Atlanta: Commentary Press, 1983), p. 50. The author, Raymond V. Franz, was from 1971 to 1980 a member of the Governing Body of the Jehovah's Witnesses, and a nephew of vice-president Frederick W. Franz. He wrote Crisis of Conscience after being expelled from the organization. On page 50 of the book he adds the following information in a footnote: "Other members of that Committee were Nathan Knorr, Albert Schroeder and George Gangas; Fred Franz, however, was the only one with sufficient knowledge of the Bible languages to attempt translation of this kind. He had studied Greek for two years in the University of Cincinnati but was only self-taught in Hebrew."

2. M. James Penton, Apocalypse Delayed: The Story of Jehovah's Witnesses (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1985), p. 174.

Forward to the 1984 Edition

It is a very responsible thing to translate the Holy Scriptures from their original languages of Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek into modern speech. Translating the Holy Scriptures means rendering into another language the thoughts and sayings of Jehovah God, the heavenly Author of this sacred library of sixty-six books that holy men of long ago were inspired to write down for our benefit today.

That is a very sobering thought. The translators of this work, who fear and love the Divine Author of the Holy Scriptures, feel toward Him a special responsibility to transmit his thoughts and declarations as accurately as possible. They also feel a responsibility toward the searching readers who depend upon a translation of the inspired Word of the Most High God for their everlasting salvation.

It was with such a sense of solemn responsibility that over the course of many years this committee of dedicated men have produced the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures. The entire work was originally released in six volumes, from 1950 to 1960. From the start it was the desire of the translators to have all these volumes brought together into one book, inasmuch as the Holy Scriptures are in actuality one book by the One Author. While the original volumes contained marginal references and footnotes, the revised one-volume edition, released in 1961, contained neither footnotes nor marginal references. A second revision was released in 1970 and a third revison with footnotes followed in 1971. In 1969 the committee released The Kingdom Interlinear Translation of the Greek Scriptures, which presented under the Greek text revised by Westcott and Hort (1948 reprint) a literal word-for-word translation into English. During the past 34 years the New World Translation has been translated in part or in its entirety into ten other languages, with a total printing and distribution surpassing 39 million.

This new edition is not just a refinement of the translated text beyond its already previous revisions, but it has been expanded to include a complete updating and revision of the marginal (cross) references that were initially presented in English, from 1950 to 1960.

This 1984 revision has been released by us to the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania for printing, translation into other leading languages and distribution. We thus make it available with a deep sense of gratitude to the Divine Author of the Holy Scriptures, who has so privileged us and in whose spirit we have trusted in producing this revision. We pray for his blessing upon those who use this translation for spiritual advancement.

New World Bible Translation Committee
June 1, 1984, New York, N.Y.