Tuesday, November 30, 2010

NWT - A totally LITERAL translation with absolutely no paraphrase or interpolation (needed additions for clarification)?

In an attempt to "balance out" his attacks on the NWT which are almost exclusively devoted to a defense of the trinity doctrine, Countess has thrown in a short chapter which includes a few, short attacks on the NWT's rendering of a few NT words. In so doing he pretends that the NWT translators have claimed to have produced a totally literal translation with absolutely no paraphrase or interpolation (needed additions for clarification)! This is absolutely false! As any Bible translator would readily admit, there is no way to translate the NT Greek found in the Bible manuscripts without some paraphrase and addition. The most literal English Bibles ever produced (excluding interlinears, of course), whether KJV, ASV, NASB, RSV, etc., frequently add words and phrases to make it understandable to English-speaking readers. They also all paraphrase difficult idioms and usages of the first century Greek language to bring out the intended meaning!* Countess knows this as well as anyone, and is being incredibly dishonest here.

A "paraphrase" Bible is one which is primarily paraphrased, such as the Living Bible, and a "literal" Bible is one that is primarily literal in its rendering, such as the New American Standard Bible (widely considered the most literal of modern Bibles). For instance, the actual word-for-word rendering of the NT Greek for Rev. 2:22, 23 is:

"Look! I am throwing her into bed and the committing adultery with her into affliction/tribulation great if ever not they will repent out of the works of her. And the children of her I will kill in death and will know all the congregations that I am the searching kidneys and hearts..."

The literal Bible (NASB) renders this:

"Behold, I will cast her upon a bed of sickness, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of her deeds. And I will kill her children with pestilence; and all the churches will know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts..." - NASB (compare RSV).

Notice that, among a number of other differences, "of sickness" has been interpolated (added) and "kidneys" has been paraphrased as "minds."

The paraphrase Bible (LB) renders it:

"Pay attention now to what I am saying: I will lay her upon a sickbed of intense affliction, along with her immoral followers, unless they turn again to me, repenting of their sin with her; and I will strike her children dead. And all the churches shall know that I am he who searches deep within men's hearts, and minds..." - LB.

Obviously a paraphrase Bible is much freer to use words and phrases that are not literal but which attempt to convey a similar thought overall. The more literal a Bible is, the more stiff, wooden, and potentially confusing it is to its readers. But even the most literal Bibles must paraphrase (as little as possible) and interpolate (as little as possible) for clarity.

The NWT (1971 ed.) renders the above passage as:

"Look! I am about to throw her into a sickbed, and those committing adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of her deeds. And her children I will kill with deadly plague, so that all the congregations will know that I am he who searches the kidneys and hearts..." - NWT.

Isn't this translation at least as literal as that of the NASB?

In spite of what Countess claims the NWT translation principles are, here is what the 1951 NWT actually said in its foreword:

"The translation of the Scriptures into a modern language should be rendered...in the speech forms current among the people. We offer no paraphrase of the Scriptures [in other words, this is to be classified as a literal Bible, not a paraphrase]. Our endeavor all through has been to give as literal a translation as possible, where the modern English idiom allows and where a literal rendition does not ... hide the thought. .... Watch has been kept against taking liberties with texts for the mere sake of brevity or short cuts and against substitution of a modern parallel, where the rendering of the original idea makes good sense." - p. 9.

So, as with all other "literal" Bibles (including the famed NASB, ASV, and RSV), the NWT does at times "interpolate" (add understood information) and "paraphrase." But it does so much less often than other modern Bible translations.

* (Of course these methods of translating hold true in the Old Testament as well. For example, the literal word-for-word rendering of the original Hebrew of Ps. 31:9 (or 31:10) is:

"Favor me O Jehovah for trouble I am in has wasted away with grief my eye, my
soul, and my belly." - The Interlinear Bible, Baker Book House, 1982.

[The Hebrew word which was translated "trouble" here by the Interlinear Bible is tsarar which literally means "to bind, tie up, be restricted, narrow, scant, or cramped" - #6887a - New American Standard Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible. And "grief" here in the Interlinear Bible is kaas which literally means: "VEXATION, anger", #3708a, New American Standard Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible; compare Strong's Concordance.]

This has been rendered as:

"Show me favor, O Jehovah, for I am in sore straits. With vexation my eye has become weak, my soul and my belly." - NWT.


"Be gracious to me, O LORD, for I am in distress; My eye is wasted away from grief,
my soul and my body also." - NASB.


"O Lord, have mercy on me in my anguish. My eyes are red from weeping; my
health is broken from sorrow." - Living Bible. )

Also see:
NWT - Criticism by Zondervan's So Many Versions? - "Too Literal" (DNWT)

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