The New World Translation (NWT) contains thousands of serious errors. The following regarding John 1:1, one of the most noteworthy verses to Jehovah's Witness and ex-Jehovah's Witnesses alike, provides a case example of how and why the NWT cannot be trusted. There some few scholars that translate the word was "a God" or "a god" or "divine" but they are in the very low percentages.
In Greek John 1:1 says: "En arche en ho logos, kai ho logos en pros ton theon, kai theos en ho logos."
In English John 1:1 says: "In the beginning (origin) was the Word and the Word was with God (face to face -toward) and the word was God." KJV [Reads: "... a god" in the NWT]
Here are what a number of well known scholars have to say about John 1:1 and/or the NWT:
Dr. J. Johnson: California State University, Long Beach. When asked to comment on the Greek, said, "No justification whatsoever for translating theos en ho logos as 'the Word was a god'. There is no syntactical parallel to Acts 23:6 where there is a statement in indirect discourse. Jn.1:1 is direct.. I am neither a Christian nor a Trinitarian.
Dr. Julius R. Mantey: He is recognized by the Watchtower Society as a Greek scholar since they quote his book on page 1158 of their Kingdom Interlinear Translation. Dr. Mantey calls the New World Translation of John 1:1 "A grossly misleading translation. It is neither scholarly nor reasonable to translate John l:1 'the Word was a god. 'But of all the scholars in the world, so far as we know, none have translated this verse as Jehovah's Witnesses have done." "I was disturbed because they (the Watchtower Society) had misquoted me in support of their translation." ... "Ninety-nine percent of the scholars of the world who know Greek and who have helped translate the Bible are in disagreement with the Jehovah's Witnesses." (Ron Rhodes "Reasoning from the Scriptures with the Jehovah's Witnesses" p.103-105)
Dr. Julius R. Mantey and H.E. Dana wrote the "Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament." The late Dr. Mantey had, on several occasions issued statements concerning the misquotation of his statements by the Witnesses, even writing a letter to the Watchtower headquarters in Brooklyn demanding references and quotes from his book to be removed from their publications. They ignored his request! Julius R. Mantey in his letter to the Watchtrower Society said: "Since Colwell's and Harner's article in JBL, especially that of Harner, it is neither scholarly nor reasonable to translate John 1:1 'The Word was a god.' Word-order has made obsolete and incorrect such a rendering .... In view of the preceding facts, especially because you have been quoting me out of context, I herewith request you not to quote the Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament again, which you have been doing for 24 years."
Philip B. Harner: The Society also mmisquoted Harner. Not only does Harner's article in the Journal of Biblical Literature not support the Watchtower's rendering of John 1:1, he emphatically argues against it! "Because of the word order used by John, the verse can only be interpreted to mean that the Word (Jesus) was God in the same sense as the Father." (Ron Rhodes Reasoning from the Scriptures with the Jehovah's Witnesses p.103-105) Philip B. Harner also said, "Perhaps the clause could be translated, 'the Word had the same nature as God.' This would be one way of representing John's thought, which is, as I understand it,"that ho logos, no less than ho theos, had the nature of theos." (Qualitative Anarthrous Predicate Nouns Mark 15:39 and John 1:1," journal of Biblical Literature, 92, 1 (March 1973), p. 87. Philip Harner states in the Journal of Biblical Literature, 92, 1 (March 1973) on Jn.1:1 "In vs. 1c the Johannine hymn is bordering on the usage of 'God' for the Son, but by omitting the article it avoids any suggestion of personal identification of the Word with the Father. And for Gentile readers the line also avoids any suggestion that the Word was a second God in any Hellenistic sense." (pg. 86. Harner notes the source of this quote: Brown, John I-XII, 24)
John L. McKenzie: Still another scholar quoted out of context by the translators of the New World Translation is John L. McKenzie. By citing McKenzie out of context and by quoting only a portion of his article, he is made to appear to teach that the Word (Jesus) is less than Jehovah because he said "the word was a divine personal being'." He is less than Jehovah. However, as apologist Robert M. Bowman correctly notes, "On the same page McKenzie calls Yahweh (Jehovah) 'a divine personal thing'; McKenzie also states that Jesus is called 'God' in both John 20:28 and Titus 2:13 and that John 1:1-18 expresses 'an identity between God and Jesus Christ.; So McKenzie's words actually argue against the Watchtower position."(Ron Rhodes Reasoning from the Scriptures with the Jehovah's Witnesses p.103-105)
Dr. B. F. Westcott: The Watchtower misrepresented Dr. Westcott using his credentials and the reprinted Greek text of Dr. Westcott. Westcott identified the Word in John 1:1 with ... "No idea of inferiority of nature is suggested by the form of expression, which simply affirms the true deity of the Word ... in the third clause 'the Word' is declared to be 'God' and so included in the unity of the Godhead." (The Bible Collector, July-December, 1971, p. 12). Dr. B. F. Westcott's, whose Greek text is used in JW KINGDOM INTERLINEAR, continues: "The predicate (God) stands emphatically first, as in 4:24. It is necessarily without the article . . . No idea of inferiority of nature is suggested by the form of expression, which simply affirms the true Deity of the Word . . . in the third clause `the Word' is declared to be `God' and so included in the unity of the Godhead." The Gospel According to St. John (Eerdmans, 1953- reprint) p. 3, (The Bible Collector, July-December, 1971, p. 12.)
Dr. Robert H. Countess: (Univ. of Tenn. and author of an excellent critical analysis of the NWT called The Jehovah's Witnesses' New Testament): "There are 282 places in the New Testament where, according to the NWT translation principle, the NWT should have translated 'a god' but in fact they follow their own rules of 'a god' translation only 6% of the time. To be ninety-four percent unfaithful hardly commends a translation to careful readers!"
Dr. Eugene A. Nida: He is the head of the Translation Department of the American Bible Society Translators of the GOOD NEWS BIBLE: "With regard to John 1:1 there is, of course, a complication simply because the NEW WORLD TRANSLATION was apparently done by persons who did not take seriously the syntax of the Greek." (Bill and Joan Cetnar Questions for Jehovah's Witnesses "who love the truth" p..55
Dr. William Barclay University of Glasgow, Scotland: "The deliberate distortion of truth by this sect is seen in their New Testament translations. John 1:1 translated:'. . . the Word was a god'.a translation which is grammatically impossible. it is abundantly clear that a sect which can translate the New Testament like that is intellectually dishonest." THE EXPOSITORY TIMES Nov, 1985
Dr. Anthony Hoekema, commented: "Their New World Translation of the Bible is by no means an objective rendering of the sacred text into Modern English, but is a biased translation in which many of the peculiar teachings of the Watchtower Society are smuggled into the text of the Bible itself." (The Four Major Cults, pp. 238, 239].
Dr. Ernest C. Colwell University of Chicago: "A definite predicate nominative has the article when it follows the verb; it does not have the article when it precedes the verb; . . . this statement cannot be regarded as strange in the prologue of the gospel which reaches its climax in the confession of Thomas. `My Lord and my God.'" John 20:28
Dr. F. F. Bruce: University of Manchester, England: "Much is made by Arian amateur grammarians of the omission of the definite article with `God' in the phrase `And the Word was God'. Such an omission is common with nouns in a predicate construction. `a god' would be totally indefensible."
Dr. Paul L. Kaufman: Portland OR.: "The Jehovah's Witness people evidence an abysmal ignorance of the basic tenets of Greek grammar in their mistranslation of John 1:1."
Dr. Charles L. Feinberg: La Mirada CA.: "I can assure you that the rendering which the Jehovah's Witnesses give John 1:1 is not held by any reputable Greek scholar."
Dr. Robert Countess: He wrote a doctoral dissertation on the Greek text of the New World Translation, concluded that the The Christ of the New World Translation " has been sharply unsuccessful in keeping doctrinal considerations from influencing the actual translation .... It must be viewed as a radically biased piece of work. At some points it is actually dishonest. At others it is neither modern nor scholarly."
H.H. Rowley: United Kingdom. He asserted, "From beginning to end this volume is a shining example of how the Bible should not be translated." Indeed, Rowley said, this translation is "an insult to the Word of God."
Dr. Harry A. Sturz: Chairman of the Language Department and Professor of Greek at Biola College. He said, "Therefore, the NWT rendering: "the Word was a god" is not a "literal" but an ungrammatical and tendential translation. A literal translation in English can be nothing other than: "the word was God." THE BIBLE COLLECTOR July - December, 1971 p. 12
A. T. Robertson: "So in John 1:1 theos en ho logos the meaning has to be the Logos was God, -not God was the Logos." A New short Grammar of the Greek Testament, AT. Robertson and W. Hersey Davis (Baker Book House, p. 279.
E. M. Sidebottom: "... the tendency to write 'the Word was divine' for theos en ho Iogos springs from a reticence to attribute the full Christian position to john." The Christ of the Fourth Gospel (S.P.C.K., 1961), p. 461.
C. K. Barrett: "The absence of the article indicates that the Word is God, but is not the only being of whom this is true; if ho theos had been written it would have implied that no divine being existed outside the second person of the Trinity." The Gospel According to St. John (S.P.C.K., 1955), p. 76.
C. H. Dodd: "On this analogy, the meaning of _theos en ho logos will be that the ousia of ho logos, that which it truly is, is rightly denominated theos... That is the ousia of ho theos (the personal God of Abraham,) the Father goes without saying. In fact, the Nicene homoousios to patri is a perfect paraphrase." New Testament Translation Problems the bible Translator, 28, 1 (Jan. 1977), P. 104.
Randolph 0. Yeager: "Only sophomores in Greek grammar are going to translate ..and the Word was a God.' The article with logos, shows that to logos is the subject of the verb en and the fact that theos is without the article designates it as the predicate nominative. The emphatic position of theos demands that we translate '...and the Word was God.' John is not saying as Jehovah's Witnesses are fond of teaching that Jesus was only one of many Gods. He is saying precisely the opposite." The Renaissance New Testament, Vol. 4 (Renaissance Press, 1980), P. 4.
Henry Alford: "Theos must then be taken as implying God, in substance and essence,-- not ho theos, 'the Father,' in person. It does not = theios; nor is it to be rendered a God -- but, as in sarx engeneto, sarx expresses that state into which the Divine Word entered by a-definite act, so in theos en, theos expresses that essence which was His en arche:--that He was very God . So that this first verse must be connected thus: the Logos was from eternity,--was with God (the Father),--and was Himself God." (Alford's Greek Testament: An Exegetical and Critical Commentary, Vol. I, Part II Guardian 'press 1976 ; originally published 1871). p. 681.
Donald Guthrie: "The absence of the article with Theos has misled some into thinking that the correct understanding of the statement would be that 'the word was a God' (or divine), but this is grammatically indefensible since Theos is a predicate." New Testament Theology (InterVarsity Press, 1981), p. 327.
Bruce M. Metzger: Professor of New Testament Language and literature at Princeton Theological Seminary said: "Far more pernicious in this same verse is the rendering, . . . `and the Word was a god,' with the following footnotes: " `A god,' In contrast with `the God' ". It must be stated quite frankly that, if the Jehovah's Witnesses take this translation seriously, they are polytheists. In view of the additional light which is available during this age of Grace, such a representation is even more reprehensible than were the heathenish, polytheistic errors into which ancient Israel was so prone to fall. As a matter of solid fact, however, such a rendering is a frightful mistranslation." "The Jehovah's Witnesses and Jesus Christ," Theology Today (April 1953), p. 75.
James Moffatt: "'The Word was God . . .And the Word became flesh,' simply means he Word was divine . . . . And the Word became human.' The Nicene faith, in the Chalcedon definition, was intended to conserve both of these truths against theories that failed to present Jesus as truly God and truly man ...." Jesus Christ the Same (Abingdon-Cokesbury, 1945), p. 61.
E. C. Colwell: "...predicate nouns preceding the verb cannot be regarded as indefinite -or qualitative simply because they lack the article; it could be regarded as indefinite or qualitative only if this is demanded by the context,and in the case of John l:l this is not so." A Definite Rule for the Use of the Article in the Greek New Testament," Journal of Biblical Literature, 52 (1933), p. 20.
The following is a list of the Bible translations which use the phrase, "The Word was God":
Rotherham "and the Word was God."
King James Version "the Word was God."
Douay "and the Word was God".
Jerusalem Bible "and the Word was God."
The New Life Testament "and the Word was God."
The Berkley Version"and the Word was God."
New Translation (Darby) "the Word was God."
Modern King James Version "the Word was God."
Revised Standard Version "and the Word was God."
American Standard Version "and the Word was God."
The New International Version "the Word was God."
Numeric English New Testament "the Word was God."
The New American Standard Bible "and the Word was God."
The New Testament in Basic English "and the Word was God."
Young's Literal Translation of the Bible "and the Word was God".
The New Testament in Modern Speech (Weymouth) "and the Word was God."
The New Testament in Modern English (Montgomer) "and the Word was God."
The New Testament in Modern English (Phillips) "that word, was with God, and was God."
English Bible "and what God was, the Word was." "and the Logos was God."
Today's English Version "and he was the same as God."
New Translation of the Bible (Moffatt) "the Logos was divine."
Complete Bible - An American Translation (Smith & Goodspeed) "the Word was divine".
Clearly, though some love to praise Fred Franz and speak glowingly of his expertise in Greek, he and the rest of the NWT committee are NOT scholars. The NWT is a MESS, and no serious Bible student should consider it anything more than a piece of amusement.