Annual Meeting Report
“God’s Own Book—A Treasure”
On the weekend of October 5 and 6, 2013, an audience of 1,413,676 in 31 countries attended the 129th annual meeting of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania, either in person at the Assembly Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Jersey City, New Jersey, U.S.A., or via webcast.
Guy Pierce, a member of the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses, served as chairman of the meeting. He aroused the anticipation of those present by assuring them that the program would answer important Bible questions, brighten the light of truth, and provide spiritual “food at the proper time.”—Matthew 24:45; Proverbs 4:18.
“A Display to Honor Jehovah.”
Mark Sanderson of the Governing Body gave details about a new exhibit at the Witnesses’ world headquarters in Brooklyn, New York, U.S.A., entitled “The Bible and the Divine Name.” The display highlights the assured place that God’s name has in both the Hebrew Scriptures and the Christian Greek Scriptures and includes many old Bibles, reproductions of ancient artifacts, and Bible pages from the Middle Ages.
Notable items in the collection include pages from a 16th-century Bible translation by William Tyndale, who was the first Bible translator to render God’s name in English, and a page from the 1602 edition of a Spanish translation known as the Reina-Valera Bible, which consistently renders the divine name as “Iehova.” Also on display are an English version known as the Great Bible (1549 printing), a copy of Elias Hutter’s 12-language Bible (1599 Edition, also called the Nuremberg Polyglot), and a Geneva Bible (1603 printing), all of which use the divine name.
Brother Sanderson invited everyone to come and see the Bible display, saying: “We truly pray that . . . it will help honesthearted people of all ages, of all educational backgrounds, to come to love the same two things that all of us love—God’s precious Word, the Bible, and his glorious name, Jehovah.”
Yeartext for 2014.
After Gerrit Lösch of the Governing Body presented a summary of the Watchtower lesson for the week, Brother Pierce announced the yeartext for 2014, “Let your Kingdom come.” (Matthew 6:10) While this would always be an appropriate yeartext for Jehovah’s Witnesses, it is especially so this year, since 2014 is the centennial of the establishment of the Kingdom in heaven.
“A Precious Gift From Jehovah.”
Next, the audience enjoyed a video about the history of the New World Translation, a Bible published by Jehovah’s Witnesses and held by some people to be among the best translations ever produced. When Nathan Knorr released the first volume of this translation at the 1950 Theocracy’s Increase International Assembly, he gave the audience advice that still holds true today: Read the translation through. Study it. Help others to study it, for this will enable them to call upon the name of Jehovah.
“A Trip Down Memory Lane.”
Samuel Herd of the Governing Body delivered this part, which included a prerecorded interview of four members of the U.S. Bethel family who were present when the New World Translation was originally released in six separate volumes between 1950 and 1960.
Eunice Timm recalled using the New World Translation at Christian meetings. She appreciated the research features, such as the chain references and cross references. Since it could be cumbersome to carry all those volumes to meetings, she said, she would take only the volumes she needed, along with her pocket-size King James Version in case verses were read that she was not expecting.
The new translation also affected other aspects of our worship. For example, Fred Rusk related that before 1950, those representing the Bethel family in prayer used expressions from the King James Version, such as “thy kingdom come.” Soon after the release of the New World Translation, though, they abandoned archaic language and offered their public prayers using everyday speech.
John Wischuk was impressed by not only the quality of the translation but also the humility of the New World Bible Translation Committee. “They did not want to be identified while alive or after death, because they wanted all the glory to go to Jehovah God,” he said. Charles Molohan expressed the sentiments of the entire group when he said, “The New World Translation has helped us to confirm the truth in our own hearts and helped to strengthen our faith, so that we can go out and help build faith in others.”
“We Hear Them Speaking in Our Languages About the Magnificent Things of God.”
(Acts 2:11) Geoffrey Jackson of the Governing Body gave the talk during which the 2013 revision of the New World Translation was released. At the end of his part, those in attendance, including practically all those tied in via webcast, received a copy of the Bible.
Brother Jackson noted that more than 60 years have passed since the release of the first volume of the New World Translation. During that time, the English language has changed, but the goal of our Bible translation work has not. We want to render God’s Word as literally as possible without ever distorting the meaning.
In 2005, the Governing Body gave increased attention to the need to translate the Bible into many languages. Since then, the number of languages in which the New World Translation is published has increased from 52 to 121, with work on 45 more languages now under way. As translators have rendered the New World Translation into other languages, they have asked for clarification of certain words or phrases. So far, over 52,000 such questions have been logged and answered, and many of these revealed areas in which the English text could be revised or modernized.
For example, Brother Jackson explained that the earlier English editions of the New World Translation said at 1 Samuel 14:11 that Jonathan and his armor-bearer “exposed themselves to the outpost of the Philistines.” To avoid a possible misreading, the new revision says that they “revealed their presence.” Likewise, Micah 2:6 previously used the literal rendering: “Do not you people let words drop. They let words drop.” This passage now reads: “‘Stop preaching!’ they preach.”
Five years ago, the Governing Body appointed a committee to revise the New World Translation, and the results of their work are now available. The revised Bible is attractive, easy to read, and durable enough to maintain its appearance even after heavy usage. Brother Jackson announced that English large-print and pocket editions will be published soon.
“Handling the Word of the Truth Aright.”
Stephen Lett of the Governing Body reviewed the auxiliary features of the new revision of the Bible, taking his theme from 2 Timothy 2:15. The expression “handling . . . aright” used in this verse literally means “to cut straight.” We want to use “the sword of the spirit” in a way that is straight, entirely accurate. (Ephesians 6:17) Brother Lett then showed how the new auxiliary features in this Bible can help us to do that.
The front section, entitled “An Introduction to God’s Word,” contains Bible verses that answer 20 questions about basic Bible teachings.
Appendix A describes aspects of the new revision, such as its style and vocabulary changes and its rendering of the divine name.
Appendix B, made up of 15 full-color sections, contains maps and diagrams that will be helpful for personal study and for teaching others.
At the beginning of each Bible book, the “Outline of Contents” summarizes the book, allowing the reader to find a desired section quickly. This feature replaces the running heads that appeared on each page of previous editions.
The “Glossary of Bible Terms” gives brief definitions of hundreds of words used in the Bible.
The “Bible Words Index” has been reduced by a significant amount. It now includes only words and verses that are most useful for preaching and teaching.
Marginal references, found in the center column on each page, have also been reduced in number. But they now include only those that would be most helpful in the ministry.
Footnotes provide alternative renderings, word-for-word translations, and background information.
John Ekrann, a member of the United States Branch Committee, demonstrated the new JW Library application for digital devices, such as smartphones and tablet computers. The application provides access to the revised New World Translation as well as to five other Bible translations. It was released free of charge through major app stores by October 7, 2013.
“Translating God’s Word so as to Convey the Correct Meaning.”
Anthony Morris of the Governing Body further explained the principles that guided the New World Bible Translation Committee in preparing the new revision. Applying 1 Corinthians 14:8, 9 to their work, the committee wanted to ensure that the revised Bible would be easily understood. Where word-for-word renderings would distort the Bible’s meaning, they were avoided.
For instance, a strictly literal translation of Genesis 31:20 would read: “Jacob stole the heart of Laban.” However, the Hebrew idiom used here differs in meaning from the English idiom, so the New World Translation now renders this expression: “Jacob outwitted Laban.” Similarly, a word-for-word translation of 1 Corinthians 7:39 would imply that a wife could marry another man if her husband “should sleep.” Since the Scriptures sometimes use “sleep” to refer to the sleep of death, though, the New World Translation helps the reader avoid confusion by using the phrase “should fall asleep in death.”
“The Bible was written using the common, everyday language of average people—farmers, shepherds, and fishermen,” Brother Morris said. “A good translation of the Bible makes the message it contains understandable to sincere people, regardless of their background.”
“Using ‘Delightful Words’ and ‘Accurate Words of Truth.’”
David Splane of the Governing Body developed this theme based on the words of Ecclesiastes 12:10. The Bible writers were very careful when recording God’s thoughts, and the original New World Bible Translation Committee similarly showed great care in their work. The latest revision of the New World Translation continues to follow the principle: “Record accurate words of truth” and make God’s message as clear as possible.
“Many English words have more than one meaning,” Brother Splane said. For example, previous editions of the New World Translation used the phrase “pattern of healthful words” at 2 Timothy 1:13. The word “pattern” has several definitions, one of which is “an artistic . . . design.” Based on this definition, some have reasoned that the phrase refers to the beautiful design, or pattern, one can find in the Bible’s teachings. However, the definition that matches the original-language word is “a model . . . proposed for imitation.” Thus, the new revision uses the phrase “standard of wholesome words.”
Brother Splane also described revisions that were made to reflect changes in the English language. For instance, the word “impale,” which was used in earlier editions of the New World Translation to describe the manner of Jesus’ execution, most often means to run a sharp stake through the body and fix the victim on it. Since Jesus was not impaled with the torture stake, the new revision uses such expressions as “nailed to the stake” to describe Jesus’ execution.—Matthew 27:22, 23, 31.
Brother Splane concluded: “Our prayer is that your reading and study of the revised New World Translation will draw you closer—ever closer—to Jehovah. And may he ever be your Father, your God, and your Friend.”
Brother Pierce compared the new Bible revision to the main course in Jehovah’s “banquet of rich dishes.” (Isaiah 25:6) He then brought the program to a fitting close by having the audience sing song number 114 from Sing to Jehovah, entitled “God’s Own Book—A Treasure.”