"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?