“The word of God is alive.”—HEB. 4:12.
SONGS: 37, 43
1. (a) What kind of assignment did God give to Adam? (b) How have God’s people used their language abilities since then?
JEHOVAH GOD endowed his creatures with the gift of communication. After settling Adam into his garden home, God gave him an assignment that involved language; he was to name the animals. Adam used his creativity and intellect to give each an appropriate name. (Gen. 2:19, 20) Since then, God’s people have continued to use their ability to speak—to use language—to praise Jehovah and to make his will known to others. In recent times, a significant way to promote pure worship by the use of language has been through Bible translation.
2. (a) The New World Bible Translation Committee followed what principles in doing its work? (b) What will we consider in this article?
2 There are thousands of Bible translations, but they vary in how faithfully they convey the message from the original texts. In the 1940’s, the New World Bible Translation Committee established principles of translation that have been followed in over 130 languages. These are: (1) Sanctify God’s name by restoring it to its rightful place in the Scriptures. (Read Matthew 6:9.) (2) Translate the original inspired message literally where possible, but convey the correct sense when a word-for-word rendering would distort the meaning. (3) Use easy-to-understand language that encourages reading. * (Neh. 8:8, 12.) Let us see how these principles have been applied in the New World Translation, the 2013 revision as well as the non-English editions.
HONORING THE NAME OF GOD
3, 4. (a) What ancient manuscripts contain the Tetragrammaton? (b) What have many Bible translations done regarding God’s name?
3 Those who study ancient Hebrew Bible manuscripts, such as the Dead Sea Scrolls, are struck by the many occurrences of the Tetragrammaton—the four Hebrew letters that represent God’s name. The divine name appears not only in those ancient Hebrew manuscripts but also in some copies of the Greek Septuagint from the second century B.C.E. through the first century C.E.
4 Despite the clear evidence that the personal name of God belongs in the Bible, many translations completely omit the sacred name of God. In fact, just two years after the New World Translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures was released in 1950, the Revised Standard Version was published. That version omitted the name, reversing the policy of the editors of the American Standard Version of 1901. Why? The preface says: “The use of any proper name for the one and only God . . . is entirely inappropriate for the universal faith of the Christian Church.” That set a pattern for many subsequent translations, English and non-English.
5. Why is it important to retain God’s name in the Bible?
5 Why is the inclusion or omission of God’s name significant? A skilled translator knows the importance of understanding the intent of an author; such knowledge affects many translation decisions. Countless Bible verses show the importance of God’s name and its sanctification. (Ex. 3:15; Ps. 83:18; 148:13; Isa. 42:8; 43:10; John 17:6, 26; Acts 15:14) Jehovah God—the Author of the Bible—inspired its writers to use his name freely. (Read Ezekiel 38:23.) Omitting the name, found thousands of times in ancient manuscripts, shows disrespect for the Author.
6. Why does the revised New World Translation have six additional occurrences of the divine name?
6 The evidence for retaining God’s name in the Bible has not diminished but grown. The 2013 revision of the New World Translation includes the name 7,216 times, which is 6 more than the 1984 edition. Five of the additional instances are found at 1 Samuel 2:25; 6:3; 10:26; 23:14, 16. These were restored primarily because the Dead Sea Scrolls, which predate the Hebrew Masoretic text by over 1,000 years, contain the name in these verses. Also, one occurrence at Judges 19:18 was restored as a result of further study of ancient manuscripts.
7, 8. What is the significance of the name meaning “He Causes to Become”?
7 For true Christians, Jehovah’s name has great significance. The appendix of the 2013 revision of the New World Translation contains updated information on this matter. The New World Bible Translation Committee understands that the name reflects the causative form of the Hebrew verb ha·wahʹ, meaning “He Causes to Become.” * Our publications had previously connected this meaning with Exodus 3:14, which says: “I Will Become What I Choose to Become.” This led to the view expressed in the 1984 edition that the name means He “causes himself to become the Fulfiller of promises.” * However, Appendix A4 of the revised edition of 2013 explains: “While the name Jehovah may include this idea, it is not limited to what he himself chooses to become. It also includes what he causes to happen with regard to his creation and the accomplishment of his purpose.”
8 Jehovah causes his creation to become whatever he chooses. In line with the meaning of his name, God caused Noah to be an ark builder, Bezalel to be a master craftsman, Gideon to be a victorious warrior, and Paul to be an apostle to the nations. Yes, God’s name has great meaning to his people. And the New World Bible Translation Committee would never undermine the name’s significance by omitting it from the Bible.
9. What is one reason why priority has been given to translating the Bible into other languages?
9 Over 130 language editions of the New World Translation honor God’s name by including it where it belongs in the sacred text. (Mal. 3:16.) In contrast, the current trend in Bible translation is to omit the divine name, substituting a title such as “Lord” or the name of a local god. This is a prime reason why the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses has given priority to making available to as many people as possible a Bible that honors God’s name.
CLEAR, ACCURATE TRANSLATION
10, 11. What were certain challenges facing the translators of some non-English editions of the New World Translation?
10 The process of rendering the sacred text into scores of languages presented many translation problems. For example, in the past, the English New World Translation followed the pattern of some other English Bibles that use the Hebrew expression “Sheol” in verses such as Ecclesiastes 9:10. That verse used to read: “There is no work nor devising nor knowledge nor wisdom in Sheʹol, the place to which you are going.” Translators of many non-English editions faced this problem: The term “Sheol” is unknown to most of their readers, it is not found in their dictionaries, and it sounds like some geographic location. Accordingly, approval was given to make the meaning of “Sheol” and the corresponding Greek term “Hades” clear by translating them accurately as “the Grave.”
11 In some languages, translating the Hebrew word neʹphesh and the Greek psy·kheʹ consistently with a term similar to the English “soul” created some confusion. Why? Because the equivalent terms could give the impression that the “soul” is an immaterial part of man. That could reflect the mistaken view that it is something like a ghost and not man himself. Hence, approval was given to render “soul” as indicated by the context, in line with the meanings already provided in the appendixes of the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures—With References. Yes, priority was given to making the text immediately understood, and helpful renderings were often put in footnotes.
12. What are some changes that were made in the 2013 revision of the New World Translation? (See also the article “The 2013 Revision of the New World Translation,” found in this issue.)
12 Questions from translators raised awareness that similar misunderstandings were possible. So in September 2007, the Governing Body gave approval to revise the English text. Thousands of questions from Bible translators were reviewed during the revision process. Obsolete English expressions were replaced, and a concerted effort was put forth to make the text clear and easy to understand without sacrificing accuracy. Applying what had been done in other languages sharpened the English text.—Prov. 27:17.
13. What has been the response to the 2013 revision?
13 What has been the effect of this revised English New World Translation? Thousands of letters of appreciation have been received at the Brooklyn headquarters of Jehovah’s Witnesses. The comments of one sister reflect the feelings of many: “The Bible is a treasure chest brimming over with valuable jewels. To read Jehovah’s words clearly by using the 2013 revision can be compared to examining each jewel, admiring its many facets, clarity, color, and beauty. The Scriptures conveyed in simple language have helped me to become better acquainted with Jehovah, who is like a father with his arms around me while he reads his soothing words to me.”
14, 15. How has the New World Translation made a positive impact in languages other than English?
14 It is not just the revised English New World Translation that has had an impact. An elderly man from Sofia, Bulgaria, commented about the Bulgarian edition: “I have read the Bible for many years, but I have never read a translation that is easier to understand and that goes right to the heart.” Likewise, after receiving her copy of the complete New World Translation, an Albanian sister commented: “How beautiful God’s Word sounds in Albanian! What a privilege to have Jehovah speak to us in our own language!”
15 In many lands, Bibles are expensive and not readily available, so just receiving a Bible is a great blessing. A report from Rwanda stated: “For a long time, many people with whom the brothers were studying had not progressed because they had no Bibles. They could not afford to purchase the local church edition. And they often could not clearly understand the meaning of certain verses, which hindered their progress.” Things changed when the New World Translation in their language became available. A Rwandan family with four teenagers said: “We really thank Jehovah and the faithful and discreet slave for giving us this Bible. We are very poor and had no money to purchase Bibles for every member of the family. But now each of us has his own Bible. To show our gratitude to Jehovah, we read the Bible as a family every day.”
16, 17. (a) What does Jehovah want for his people? (b) What should be our determination?
16 In time, the revised New World Translation will be made available in more languages. Satan tries to block such efforts, but we trust that Jehovah wants to have all his people listen as he speaks to them in clear, understandable language. (Read Isaiah 30:21.) The time will come when “the earth will certainly be filled with the knowledge of Jehovah as the waters cover the sea.”—Isa. 11:9.
17 May we be determined to take advantage of every gift from Jehovah, including this translation that honors his name. Let him speak with you every day through his Word. His limitless abilities allow him to listen attentively to our prayers. This communication will help us to come to know Jehovah ever more intimately as our love for him keeps growing.—John 17:3.
^ par. 2 See Appendix A1 of the revised New World Translation and the article “How Can You Choose a Good Bible Translation?” in The Watchtower of May 1, 2008.
^ par. 7 Some reference works present this understanding, though not all scholars agree.
^ par. 7 See the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures—With References, Appendix 1A “The Divine Name in the Hebrew Scriptures,” p. 1561.