One criticism of the NWT

by Wonderment 4 Replies latest watchtower beliefs

  • Wonderment

    "Grace" or "undeserved kindness"?

    It's no secret that forum members on this site are well aware that I tend to defend the NWT as a product in more than a few places. I, unlike some others here, do not view the version as unprofessional. I feel the translation is quite good.

    Some posters have directed comments at me suggesting by association that I am a disguised active member of JWs. Yes, I was a Witness once, but I voluntarily pulled away from the organization some 35 years ago. I have not visited a single Kingdom Hall in all that time. Nor do I regret it. I don't believe every WT doctrine has to be either correct or wrong either.

    Notwithstanding, those around me, like my wife (not a Witness), know very well that there are some renderings in it that I find disconcerting. One of these is brought up by the early NW Committee stated principle of rendering one original term by an English equivalent consistently throughout Scripture. The mission is laudable, and in some cases doable, but the end result is not always pleasant.

    One example of this is the way the Society handled the Greek term χάρις [cha'ris] commonly translated as "grace" in most versions, but rendered as undeserved kindness in previous NWT editions throughout. I see posters expressing their outright disapproval for the alternate NW rendering. I agree with them that the rendering can be off-putting in some places. However, there is merit in viewing undeserved kindness as one basic meaning of the Greek word. Various translators use the similar "unmerited favor" in their versions as a meaning of cha'ris.

    William Barclay explains that cha'ris “has always two basic ideas in it: (a) It always has the idea of something completely undeserved. It always has the idea of something that we could never have earned or achieved for ourselves.... (b) It always has the idea of beauty in it. In modern Greek the word means charm. In Jesus we see the winsomeness of God.” (The Gospel of John, p. 66)

    With this in mind, I find that replacing undeserved kindness for "grace" (cha'ris) in some contexts is fitting. The NWT Study Bible has this to say in John 1.14:

    divine favor: Or “undeserved kindness.” The Greek word khaʹris occurs more than 150 times in the Christian Greek Scriptures and conveys different shades of meaning, depending on the context. When referring to the undeserved kindness that God shows toward humans, the word describes a free gift given generously by God with no expectation of repayment. It is an expression of God’s bounteous giving and generous love and kindness that the recipient has done nothing to merit or earn; it is motivated solely by the generosity of the giver. (Ro 4:4; 11:6) This term does not necessarily highlight that the recipients are unworthy of receiving kindness, which is why Jesus could be a recipient of this favor, or kindness, from God. In contexts involving Jesus, the term is appropriately rendered “divine favor,” as in this verse, or “favor.” (Lu 2:40, 52) In other contexts, the Greek term is rendered “favor” and “kind gift.”​—Lu 1:30; Ac 2:47; 7:46; 1Co 16:3; 2Co 8:19.

    If we use the above WT argument, we could shoe-in the concept of undeserved kindness, even in John 1.14, 17. However, I find this choice uncongenial in contrast with the uplifting message that John was conveying to the world. In all, the opening chapter of John's Gospel is filled with beautiful, delightful, life-saving language. Thus, reading that Jesus was filled with undeserved kindness may appear to be in conflict with the concept of "beauty" and "charm," an intrinsic meaning of the biblical term, as Barclay noted.

    I am not suggesting we need to drop the rendering undeserved kindness altogether from the Scriptures. In various contexts, it is more than suitable to express the biblical concept. But in other contexts, like the one in John's opening chapter, the revised NWT "divine favor" reading is preferable. Why not keep "grace" like most versions do? Well, the common rendering of "grace" is often misunderstood, as many church-goers find it challenging to define it. Hence, an effort to use a more understandable alternative may not be a bad idea.

    What do you think?

  • aqwsed12345

    The word "grace" is missing from the translation of the NWT Bible. Instead, it is paraphrased as "undeserved kindness" everywhere.

    This phrase clearly shows the rationalistic bent of the WTS doctrine on salvation. There is no supernatural justification, there is no new birth, no sacraments, no adoption as a son (since there is a two-class redemption), just read the publications, develope a WTS-comptable mental attitude, and then you can pet the lion in the "garden", presented in our newspapers. However, as all sinners, we need God's mercy, this is what the word "grace" means: the fact that God is not merciful, only "kind" and "nice", hides this essential aspect.

    However, we need not just pleasant stroking from the Judge of our lives but a saving judgment. The JWs growing up with the NWT could not have the appropriate relationship with God. According to the WTS, it is not enough to believe in Jesus for salvation, so the NWT states that "everyone who calls on the name of Jehovah will be saved" (Romans 10:13). This was based on the belief of the Society that the archangel Michael was merely a "tool" of Jehovah, who obtained atonement for sins in the past, so Witnesses are not so much grateful to him but to Jehovah. They believe in things related to Jesus (what happened in the past), but they do not personally put their trust in Jesus (nor can they pray to him). According to the Society's interpretation, believers do not have faith in God but "exercise faith in him" (John 3:16). This serves the organizational system well, which states that a Witness only has a chance to "be saved" as long as they serve loyally and actively within the organization.

    Following the Society's "theocratic" educational program, the NWT states that eternal life does not require someone to know God but rather to "take in knowledge" of Him. In accordance with the Society's rationalistic approach, mature thinking is seen as more of a "mental attitude": Fathers are instructed to raise their children not with discipline and instruction according to the Lord's teaching but with "Jehovah's discipline and mental regulating". For believers, it is not Jesus' sacrificial, humble disposition (motivation) that serves as an example; rather, they must preserve "that mental attitude" within themselves, which was also in Christ (Philippians 2:5). All of this is based on the belief that "born again" is a privilege reserved only for the 144,000 anointed ones, and the other Witnesses cannot be born again or have the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, the "fruitage of the spirit" is practically the result of human effort: Witnesses are expected to obey biblical commands and the organization's supervision in order to develop a "trained conscience" and a "balanced viewpoint."

    All these horrible word creations like "exercise faith," "acquire precise knowledge," "inspired declaration," "in unity," "receive salvation," and "undeserved kindness" is nothing more than empty, pretentious phrases that have no real connection to the original meaning. Paper can endure many things, including these theological monstrosities, but that doesn't make them any less dreadful. Perfect choices? Come on! Why weren't "believe," "know," "spirit," "in him," "be saved," and "grace" good enough for you? The translators couldn't justify these words, perhaps because they didn't like the worn-out established equivalents.

  • Anony Mous
    Anony Mous

    You require a WTBTS belief system in order to find the NWT acceptable and properly translated. To most Christians and theologians it is an abomination of a translation, several things are wholesale added or removed to fit their belief system which in itself is sacrilegious to most people.

    Even the NWT has several edits over the decades to fit new teachings, the “green Bible” is different from the black one which is different from the gray one and some people that held onto their old translation or pointed out major differences were disfellowshipped and shunned. If you start religiously burning people at the stake for using your own old translation, then you are no better than the inquisition.

  • Journeyman
    If you start religiously burning people at the stake for using your own old translation, then you are no better than the inquisition.

    Whether you accept the basic NWT as an acceptable translation, that's one of the two big problems I have with the current situation.

    1) I don't know any other religious org that would treat someone with an 'older' translation as a pariah, yet if a JW were to come to the meetings relying on the 'old' (1984) NWT, or even worse, the even older 'green' one, they are viewed as an 'oddball' or suspected of being an apostate, a disfellowshipped person or someone extremely spiritually 'weak' or 'backward'.

    2) the 'revised' NWT removed some features which were useful, such as the plural YOU (there wasn't even any attempt to explain why this was removed), and the notation that showed that certain additions had been made for clarification (such as "other" at Colossians 1:16, etc). I'm not debating here whether any addition/clarification should be there or not. My point is that if a clarification is added, it should be made clear that that is what it is (just as past translators' marginal notes were indicated as separate to the core text) - not a part of the previous extant text. Removing the footnote notation makes the unsuspecting reader think that the wording given is as it was in the 'original' (ie source manuscript) and for any supposed believer, risks deliberately disobeying Deuteronomy 4:2 and Revelation 22:18-19.

  • aqwsed12345


    "that certain additions had been made for clarification (such as "other" at Colossians 1:16, etc)"

    "Clarification"... muhaha, rotflmao, whatever... you mean writing their own interpretation into the text itself, or to say a better term, Bible distortion. What about "in their relative positions" in Romans 13:1? And all these?

    "I'm not debating here whether any addition/clarification should be there or not."

    According to the Reasoning From the Scriptures:

    What kind of translation is this? For one thing, it is an accurate, largely literal translation from the original languages. It is not a loose paraphrase, in which the translators leave out details that they consider unimportant and add ideas that they believe will be helpful.

    So, according to them, this should not be done, and according to the promise, they did not do it, as we can see: they lied.

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