A Spiritual Milestone!

Release of the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures

A Spiritual Milestone!

On February 15, 2020, a spiritual milestone was reached: The New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures was released in American Sign Language.

The New World Translation is noteworthy for its accuracy and faithfulness to God’s inspired message. (2 Timothy 3:​16) What disturbing trends in modern Bible translation did it avoid? Who is behind the new translation? And how can you be sure that the New World Translation is reliable?

Is my Bible accurate?

“The Bible is the best-selling book of the year, every year,” wrote Declan Hayes, professor of international business. Unfortunately, the desire to produce a best seller seems at times to overshadow concern for accuracy. For instance, one Bible deletes passages that its publishers deem “boring.” Another Bible alters words or expressions that might offend some modern-day readers. For instance, it tries to appeal to certain people by calling God “Father-Mother.”

Perhaps the most disturbing trend in Bible translation involves the personal name of God, Jehovah. (Some scholars render God’s name “Yahweh.”) In ancient copies of the Bible, the divine name is represented by four Hebrew consonants that may be transliterated YHWH or JHVH. This distinctive name appears nearly 7,000 times in the Hebrew Scriptures * alone. (Exodus 3:​15; Psalm 83:18) Clearly, then, our Creator intended that his worshippers know and use that name!

However, centuries ago, superstitious fears caused the Jews to stop pronouncing the divine name. Later on, Christianity was also infected by such superstitious viewpoints. (Acts 20:29, 30; 1 Timothy 4:1) Today, Bible translators commonly replace God’s name with the title “Lord.” Some modern English Bibles even omit reference to the word “name” at John 17:6, where Jesus said: “I have made your name manifest.” The Holy Bible: Easy-to-Read Version renders this verse: “I have shown them what you are like.”

Some scholars claim that they are merely following tradition when they replace God’s name with the title “Lord.” Others admit that the desire to increase sales drove their decision. * But Jesus condemned the following of God-dishonoring traditions. (Matthew 15:6) Besides, the whole idea of replacing a name with a title is without basis in Scripture. Jesus Christ has numerous titles, such as “The Word of God” and “King of kings.” (Revelation 19:11-​16) Should the name Jesus, then, be replaced with one of these titles?

The issue here is not merely academic. Consider this statement by a Bible translation consultant in India about removing the divine name from the Bible: “The Hindus are not interested in the title of God; they want to know the personal name of God, and unless they know the name they cannot relate themselves to the one who bears it.” Really, this can be said of all who seek God. Knowing God’s name is critical to understanding him, not as some impersonal force, but as a Person​—someone we can get to know. (Exodus 34:​6, 7) The Bible thus declares: “Everyone who calls on the name of Jehovah will be saved.” (Romans 10:13) Worshippers of God are obliged to use his name!

A translation that honors God

The New World Translation uses the name of God, Jehovah

It was therefore a milestone event in 1950 when the English version of the New World Translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures was first published. During the next decade, the Hebrew Scriptures were published in installments. In 1961 the complete Bible in English was released in one volume. Significantly, the New World Translation renders the divine name “Jehovah” in all of its nearly 7,000 occurrences in the Old Testament. Particularly outstanding is the restoration of the divine name 237 times in the Christian Greek Scriptures. *

Restoring that name not only honors God but enhances our understanding. To illustrate, many translations render Matthew 22:44: “The Lord said to my Lord.” But just who is speaking to whom? The New World Translation renders Matthew 22:44: “Jehovah said to my Lord,” correctly quoting Psalm 110:1. Readers can thus make a critical distinction between Jehovah God and his Son.

Who is behind the translation?

The New World Translation is published by the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society, a legal agency representing Jehovah’s Witnesses. For more than a hundred years, Jehovah’s Witnesses have printed and distributed Bibles all over the world. The New World Translation was prepared by a group of Jehovah’s Witnesses known as the New World Bible Translation Committee. Far from seeking personal prominence, the committee members requested that they remain anonymous even after their death.​—1 Corinthians 10:31.

Why is this work entitled the New World Translation? The foreword to the 1950 edition explained that this title reflects the firm conviction that mankind is “at the portals of the new world” promised at 2 Peter 3:​13. As the committee wrote, during this “time of transition from the old world to the righteous new world,” it is important that Bible translations allow “the pure truth of God’s Word” to shine forth.

An accurate translation

Priority was given to accuracy. The translators of the English edition worked directly from the original Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek languages, using the best texts available. Unusual care was exercised to render the ancient text as faithfully as possible​—but in language that would be readily understood by modern-day readers.

Not surprisingly, some scholars have praised the New World Translation for its integrity and accuracy. Professor Benjamin Kedar-Kopfstein, a Hebrew scholar in Israel, said in 1989: “In my linguistic research in connection with the Hebrew Bible and translations, I often refer to the English edition of what is known as the New World Translation. In so doing, I find my feeling repeatedly confirmed that this work reflects an honest endeavor to achieve an understanding of the text that is as accurate as possible.”

Making other editions available

Appropriately, then, Jehovah’s Witnesses have made the New World Translation available outside the English-speaking world. It is currently published in whole or in part in some 196 languages. To facilitate this undertaking, a method of Bible translation was developed that combines Biblical word study with computer technology. A department called Translation Services was established to assist translators. The Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses maintains close supervision of Bible translation work through its Writing Committee. But just how is this work done?

First, a group of dedicated Christians is appointed to serve as a translation team. Experience has shown that when translators work together as a team instead of independently, they produce a better, more balanced translation. (Proverbs 11:14) Generally, each member of the team has experience as a translator of publications of Jehovah’s Witnesses. The team then receives thorough training in the basic principles of Bible translation and in the use of the specially developed computer programs.

The translation team is instructed to produce a Bible that is accurate yet easily understood by the common people. It should be literal when possible but, at the same time, should never distort the meaning of the original text. How is this done? Consider the newly released Bible. The translation team began by selecting American Sign Language equivalents for all the major Biblical terms used in the English New World Translation. The computerized Watchtower Translation System displayed related and synonymous Bible words. It also showed the original Greek or Hebrew words from which the English words were drawn so that the translator could study how those Greek or Hebrew words were translated in other occurrences. Once the team agreed on those words, they began to translate the Bible, using the computer to display the American Sign Language equivalents as they worked through each verse.

However, translation means much more than simply substituting one set of words for another. Much work had to be done to make sure that the selected American Sign Language terms conveyed the correct Scriptural thought in each context. Care had to be taken to make sure that the grammar and syntax were pleasing and natural. The hard work put into this project speaks for itself. The American Sign Language edition of the New World Translation renders God’s Word in a way that is easy to read, clear and understandable, and faithful to the ancient text. *

We urge you to examine the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures for yourself. You can read it online or in the JW Library app, or you can obtain a printed copy from the local congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses. You can read it with the confidence that it faithfully renders the very sayings of God in your own language. No doubt, you will soon agree that the recent release of this Bible was truly a spiritual milestone!


Features of the New World Translation


An Introduction to God’s Word: Contains Bible verses that answer 20 questions about basic Bible teachings

Accurate translation: Painstaking care was taken to render the original Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek into English and then into American Sign Language as accurately and faithfully as possible

Marginal references: Direct the reader to related Bible texts

Appendix A: Describes aspects of the new revision, such as its style and vocabulary changes and its rendering of the divine name

Appendix B: Includes 15 full-color sections with maps and diagrams

^ par. 7 Commonly called the Old Testament.

^ par. 9 For example, the coordinator of translation for the New International Version wrote: “Jehovah is a distinctive name for God and ideally we should have used it. But we put 2 1/4 million dollars into this translation and a sure way of throwing that down the drain is to translate, for example, Psalm 23 as, ‘Yahweh is my shepherd.’ Immediately, we would have translated for nothing.”

^ par. 12 Commonly known as the New Testament.

^ par. 24 For more information about the principles of Bible translation and the features of the American Sign Language edition, see the appendix articles A1 and A2 of the New World Translation.