The New World Translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures was released in English in 1950, and the complete New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures was published in 1961. Since then, tens of millions of readers in well over 100 languages have benefited from this accurate yet readable rendering of the Holy Scriptures from the original languages.
Over the past half century, however, languages have changed. The current New World Bible Translation Committee recognized the need to respond to those changes in order to touch the heart of today’s reader. For this reason, a number of style and vocabulary changes have been made in this revision, with the following objectives in mind:
Use of modern, understandable language. For example, the expression “long-suffering” can be misunderstood to mean “someone who suffers for a long time.” However, the intended idea is that of deliberate restraint, which is better expressed by the term “patience.” (Galatians 5:22) The now obsolete meaning of “dumb” was replaced with “speechless.” (Matthew 9:32, 33) The term “harlot” was changed to “prostitute.” (Genesis 38:15) In this revision, “fornication” is usually rendered as “sexual immorality”; “loose conduct” as “brazen conduct”; and “revelries” as “wild parties.” (Galatians 5:19-21) The expression “time indefinite” was replaced with such terms as “forever,” “lasting,” “everlasting,” or “long ago,” to convey the intended meaning in each context.—Genesis 3:22; Exodus 31:16; Psalm 90:2; Ecclesiastes 1:4; Micah 5:2.
The term “seed” in ancient Hebrew and Greek could refer to plant seed as well as to human offspring, or descendants, or to semen. Because it is no longer common in English to use the term “seed” when referring to humans, it was replaced with expressions that convey the intended idea according to the context. (Genesis 1:11; 22:17; 48:4; Matthew 22:24; John 8:37) In most cases, the term “offspring” is now used when referring to the Edenic promise, found at Genesis 3:15.
The English verb “impale” was used in previous versions of this Bible in connection with the execution of Jesus. While this term could refer to the way that Jesus was nailed to the torture stake, it is more often used in reference to the ancient method of execution by running a sharp stake through the body and fixing the victim on it. Since Jesus was not impaled with the torture stake, this revision uses such expressions as “executed on a stake” and “nailed to the stake” with regard to the manner in which Jesus was fastened to the torture stake.—Matthew 20:19; 27:31, 35.
Biblical expressions clarified. Some terms used in previous editions of the English New World Translation often needed to be explained in order to be properly understood. For example, the Hebrew term “Sheol” and the Greek term “Hades” are used in the Bible to refer to the common grave of mankind. Those terms are unknown to many, and “Hades” has a dual meaning as a result of its usage in Greek mythology. Therefore, both terms were replaced with what was meant by the Bible writers, “the Grave.” The terms “Sheol” and “Hades” are now given in footnotes.—Psalm 16:10; Acts 2:27.
In past editions, the Hebrew word neʹphesh and the Greek word psy·kheʹ were consistently rendered “soul.” In view of the many misconceptions regarding the meaning of the word “soul,” this approach helped the reader to see how the inspired Bible writers used these original-language terms. Depending on the context, those words may refer (1) to a person, (2) to the life of a person, (3) to living creatures, (4) to the desires and appetite of a person or, in some cases, (5) even to dead individuals. However, since such use of the word “soul” is not common in English, the decision was made to render these original-language words according to their intended meaning, usually with a footnote that reads “Or ‘soul.’” (See, for example, Genesis 1:20; 2:7; Leviticus 19:28; Psalm 3:2; Proverbs 16:26; Matthew 6:25.) However, in some poetic or well-known contexts, the word “soul” was retained in the main text, along with a footnote referring to the Glossary or showing another possible rendering.—Deuteronomy 6:5; Psalm 131:2; Proverbs 2:10; Matthew 22:37.
Similarly, the word “kidney” was retained when it refers to the literal organ. However, when it is used figuratively in such verses as Psalm 7:9 and 26:2 and Revelation 2:23, the intended idea of “deepest emotions” or “innermost thoughts” is conveyed in the main text, and the literal idea is given in a footnote.
Like its Hebrew and Greek equivalents, the English expression “heart” has both a literal and a figurative meaning, so it was usually retained in the main text. However, in a few contexts where the sense was not clear, a more explicit rendering was used. For example, in the book of Proverbs, “in want of heart” now reads “lacking good sense,” and the literal idea is given in a footnote. Other expressions, for instance, “fat,” “flesh,” and “horn,” were handled similarly, according to the context. (Genesis 45:18; Ecclesiastes 5:6; Job 16:15) Some of these expressions are discussed in the “Glossary of Bible Terms.”
Enhanced readability. In previous editions of the English New World Translation, auxiliary expressions were used to indicate whether the Hebrew verb is in the imperfect or the perfect state. For example, the continuous action often expressed by imperfect verbs was indicated by means of the expressions “proceeded to,” “went on to,” “came to be,” and so forth. The emphasis often conveyed by the Hebrew perfect verb was denoted by the added expressions “certainly,” “must,” “actually,” and similar ones. As a result, these terms were used thousands of times in the text. In this revision, auxiliary terms were retained in certain contexts by using such expressions as “kept,” “keep on,” and “used to” when there was a valid reason to express continuous action. (Genesis 3:9; 34:1; Proverbs 2:4) However, they were omitted to enhance readability when the auxiliary expressions were not critical for conveying the original meaning.
Conveying the correct idea of words involving gender. Hebrew and Greek nouns indicate male or female gender, and in Greek, also neuter. At times, though, reflecting the gender of the original-language term may obscure the intended meaning. In both Hebrew and Greek, plural nouns are generally masculine, not only when referring exclusively to males but also when referring to both males and females. For example, though the expression “the sons of Israel” may refer to the 12 sons of Jacob, it more often refers to the entire nation of Israel, both men and women. (Genesis 46:5; Exodus 35:29) So in the revision, this phrase was often rendered “Israelites” to show that it refers to the entire nation. Similarly, the expression “fatherless boy” was rendered “fatherless child” or “orphan” to show that it may refer to a boy or a girl. On the other hand, since the Bible uses the male gender in reference to God and to his Son, as well as to various angels and demons, there is no basis for using genderless terms as is done in some modern translations.
Omission of indicators for second person plural. Past editions also indicated whether the pronouns “you” and “your” and second person verbs were singular or plural by using small capital letters to show plurality. This feature was not retained in this revision, but readers may consult earlier editions of this translation for this information.
All adjustments in the Bible text were made prayerfully, carefully, and with deep respect for the fine work of the original New World Bible Translation Committee.
Other features of this revision:
This Bible edition contains a limited number of footnotes. The footnotes generally fall into the following categories:
Meaning and background information Meaning of names (Genesis 3:17, “Adam”; Exodus 15:23, “Marah”); details about weights and measures (Genesis 6:15, “cubits”); the antecedent of a pronoun (Genesis 38:5, “He”); helpful information in the Appendix and the Glossary.—Genesis 37:35, “Grave”; Matthew 5:22, “Gehenna.”
The front section, entitled “An Introduction to God’s Word,” contains an outline of basic teachings found in the Bible. Immediately following the Bible text is the “Table of the Books of the Bible,” the “Bible Words Index,” and the “Glossary of Bible Terms.” The Glossary helps the reader understand selected expressions according to their Bible-specific usage. Appendix A contains the following sections: “Principles of Bible Translation,” “Features of This Revision,” “How the Bible Came to Us,” “The Divine Name in the Hebrew Scriptures,” “The Divine Name in the Christian Greek Scriptures,” “Chart: Prophets and Kings of Judah and of Israel,” and “Main Events of Jesus’ Earthly Life.” Appendix B contains maps, charts, and other information useful to diligent Bible students.
In the main text of the Bible, each book features an outline of its chapter contents, along with the related verses, giving the reader an overview of the entire book. The center column of each page contains the most relevant marginal references from previous editions, pointing to related Bible verses.