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Jehovah’s Witnesses and John 1:1
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (asv)
Until around 1950, Jehovah’s Witnesses carried with them a copy of the American Standard Version of the Bible (because it features the name Jehovah throughout the Old Testament). But they faced the embarrassing problem of trying to deny the deity of Christ, while the very Bible they held in their hand said plainly that “the Word was God.” This problem was solved when the Watchtower Society published its own New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures.
Now, when Christians refer JWs to John 1:1, the Witnesses can answer, “That’s not in my Bible!” They can turn to John 1:1 in their own translation, and read “… the Word was a god.”
By reducing Jesus Christ to “a god,” the Watchtower places him among the “many ‘gods’ and many ‘lords’ ” of 1 Corinthians 8:5—on the same level as Satan, “the god of this system of things” (2 Cor. 4:4, nwt).
The Watchtower Society presents the New World Translation as the anonymous work of the New World Bible Translation Committee—and resists all efforts to identify the members of the committee. They say they do this in order that all credit for the work will go to God. But an unbiased observer will quickly note that such anonymity also shields the translators from any blame for errors or distortions in their renderings. And it prevents scholars from checking their credentials. In fact, defectors who have quit Watchtower headquarters in recent years have identified the alleged members of the committee, revealing that none of them was expert in Hebrew, Greek, or Aramaic—the original languages from which the Bible must be translated.
For many years Jehovah’s Witnesses turned for support of their “a god” rendering to The New Testament (1937) by Johannes Greber, since Greber also translated it as “ … the Word was a god.” Watchtower Society publications quote or cite Greber in support of this and other renderings, as follows:
Aid to Bible Understanding (1969), pages 1134 and 1669
“Make Sure of All Things—Hold Fast to What Is Fine” (1965), page 489
The Watchtower, 9/15/62, page 554
The Watchtower, 10/15/75, page 640
The Watchtower, 4/15/76, page 231
“The Word”—Who Is He? According to John (1962), page 5
However, after ex-Witnesses gave considerable publicity to the fact that Greber was a spiritist who claimed that spirits showed him what words to use in his translation, The Watchtower (4/1/83) said on page 31:
This translation was used occasionally in support of renderings of Matthew 27:52, 53 and John 1:1, as given in the New World Translation and other authoritative Bible versions. But as indicated in a foreword to the 1980 edition of The New Testament by Johannes Greber, this translator relied on “God’s Spirit World” to clarify for him how he should translate difficult passages. It is stated: “His wife, a medium of God’s Spirit world was often instrumental in conveying the correct answers from God’s Messengers to Pastor Greber.” The Watchtower has deemed it improper to make use of a translation that has such a close rapport with spiritism. (Deuteronomy 18:10–12) The scholarship that forms the basis for the rendering of the above-cited texts in the New World Translation is sound and for this reason does not depend at all on Greber’s translation for authority. Nothing is lost, therefore, by ceasing to use his New Testament.
Thus, it appeared that the Society had only just then discovered Greber’s spiritistic connections and immediately repented of using him for support. However, this, too, was yet another deception—because the JW organization already knew of Greber’s spiritism back in 1956. The Watchtower of February 15, 1956, contains nearly a full page devoted to warning readers against Johannes Greber and his translation. It refers to his book titled Communication with the Spirit-World: Its Laws and Its Purpose and states, “Very plainly the spirits in which ex-priest Greber believes helped him in his translation” (The Watchtower, 2/15/56, p. 111).
Aside from Greber’s New Testament and the Watchtower Society’s slanted version, other English-language Bible translations are nearly unanimous in rendering John 1:1 as “ … the Word was God.” And this is consistent with the declaration by the apostle Thomas, also found in John’s Gospel, calling Jesus “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28). The JW New World Translation still calls Jesus “God” in John 20:28 and Isaiah 9:6. In fact, their 1985 Kingdom Interlinear version reveals that the Greek literally says Jesus is “the God” (HO THEOS) in John 20:28.
Anyone who believes that the Father is God, while the Son is “a god” should read Isaiah 43 and 44, where the inspired Word dismisses such a notion: “Before Me no God was formed, nor shall there be after Me. I, even I, am the LORD, and beside Me there is no saviour.… is there a god beside me? There is no other Rock; I know of none!” (Isa. 43:10–11; 44:8, mlb italics added).
For additional information on the deity of Christ and attempts by Watchtower translators to hide it in their Bible, see the discussions of Genesis 18:1–2; Exodus 3:14; Psalm 110:1; Isaiah 9:6; Daniel 10:13, 21; John 8:57–58; John 20:28; and Hebrews 1:6.
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