This weekend was a HUGE weekend for Jehovah’s Witnesses world-wide. There was an announcement made at their annual meeting about the release of a New, New World Translation. I am not sure what they are calling it yet, but the inside cover of the Bible says “Revised 2013.” If they go with the RNWT instead of the NNWT, then that would mean we have the opportunity to come up with all kinds of new acronyms. My wife and I called the NWT the “New Way to Twist it,” or just “The Twisted” for short. I’m guessing maybe this is the “Newest New Way to Twist it.”
I wanted to see if my friend would tell me about the new Bible because it I knew it would be a good topic of discussion and it would be suspicious if I brought it up, so I decided to ask a question to get things moving in the direction I wanted to go.
When I walked into the restaurant, JW1 and JW2 were sitting at a table with slight grins on their faces. They both had their new Bibles sitting on the table in front of them. Since it had been two weeks since we met last, I thought it natural to ask, “So what’s new?”
JW2: Not much.
JW1: Something is new. We were just wondering if you would figure it out on your own.
These guys. JW2 laughed at JW1’s comment and their grins got bigger. I decided to play along and see how long it would take before they just flat out told me about the new Bibles.
KW: You guys match. You have the same color shirt. Your pagan ties don’t quite match though (If you want to know why I said that, read my previous blog). What am I missing?
JW2 slid his Bible towards me.
KW: You’ve got a Bible. Don’t you always have a Bible?
JW2: Yeah, we do.
KW: Is it a new Bible?
JW1 started laughing and quoted me asking, “What’s new? What’s new?”
KW: And you didn’t get me one? I’m disappointed.
JW1: We have something much better for you.
KW: Okay, what’s that?
JW1: It is a new app. It is the most downloaded app on the iPad.
JW2 handed me his new Bible so I could check it out. The cover is really nice and has a soft leathery feel to it. The font on the cover is stamped so it almost looks like it is engraved into the material. All the artwork is a completely different style and there are a lot of introductory notes before the text of each book begins.
We talked about the various features of the printed book and the app for quite some time. I’m guessing they saw a video of how to use it during their annual meeting because JW1 was explaining a feature that he really liked where you could look at a number of different translations at the same time. JW2 had the app downloaded on his phone so he was eager to show me what it looked like.
What they didn’t know, and I didn’t tell them, is that I knew about the new Bible and app on Saturday. An exJW Christian friend of mine caught wind of it and showed me a message he received informing him about a blog called JWsurvey which shared some leaked information about the annual meeting. If you want to know more about some specifics regarding the new Bible and what things have been changed, check out John Cedars’ blog.
I asked how much the Bibles cost and JW1 said they were on a donation basis. I asked for a suggested donation and he said there was none. They also don’t have any left. His kingdom hall ran out of them very quickly. I don’t know if they will have more color options later, but the only color they have at this point is gray. As we were examining the new bible, I asked;
KW: Other than the look and feel of the Bible, what has been revised?
I was familiar with the changes noted on John Cedar’s blog, but I wanted to see if there was anything these guys knew about. I am glad I asked because JW1 immediately took me to a very significant change at John 17:3. I have an old NWT on my iPad so JW1 wanted me to read the old version first.
KW: It reads, “This means everlasting life, their taking in knowledge of you, the only true God, and of the one whom you sent forth, Jesus Christ.”
JW1: In the new one, instead of taking in knowledge it says, “their coming to know you.”
KW: Oh, really?
I asked to see the new Bible and sure enough, the whole verse reads, “This means everlasting life, their coming to know you, the only true God, and the one whom you sent, Jesus Christ.” This may not seem like a big deal on the surface, but trust me, it is HUGE in the minds of a Jehovah’s Witness. Unfortunately, I never discussed this verse with my friend before, but I have had numerous conversations with other Witnesses about the difference between knowing about someone and knowing that person. The revised NWT shifts from knowledge about God to knowing God. I told them that I liked the newer version of John 17:3 better.
JW2 tried to explain that part of the reason for the revision was because languages have a tendency to change and words can come to mean different things. I countered his point by reading aloud John 17:3 in the version I use (NASB).
KW: “This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” Mine has always said “know you.”
On a side-note, when I talked to my wife about my meeting, I told her about this change. She was shocked because she talked with a Witness lady just last week about this very verse. The Witness woman was adamant that her translation was more accurate, we must “take in knowledge” of Jehovah. My wife will be meeting again this week hoping that her Witness friend will have her own copy of the new Bible. If so, she is going to ask how John 17:3 reads in the new version. That ought to be a GREAT conversation.
Getting back to JW2. He saw my point. The Watchtower had to revise their “more accurate” version of their Bible to reflect a truth my “biased Bible” had already been proclaiming for decades. He sought to redeem himself by bring up Isaiah 11:8.
JW2: Do you remember the verse about the “sucking child?”
I started laughing so hard I almost had tears in my eyes. I remember us reading that verse months ago which reads in the old version, “And the sucking child will certainly play upon the hole of the cobra; and upon the light aperture of a poisonous snake will a weaned child actually put his own hand.” I remember giving them a hard time about it and jokingly asking something like, “who translated this mess?” Evidently that made an impact on JW2 because he knew that the revision had changed it to a much more palatable reading. “The nursing child will play over the lair of a cobra, And a weaned child will put his hand over the den of a poisonous snake.” I told him I was glad they got the “sucking child” out of there. We all laughed at that.
JW1: Psalm 119:105 is another verse which reads better. “Your word is a lamp to my foot, And a light for my path.”
KW: Let’s see what the old New World Translation said. “Your word is a lamp to my foot, And a light to my roadway.” Roadway? That’s awkward. I like the new version better. Let’s see what it says in mine. “Your word is a lamp to my feet And a light to my path.” Yep, your new version pretty much says the same thing as mine.
JW1: Well, what do you know.
KW: It is about time you are getting it right.
We all laughed at that too. If you haven’t noticed or are new to my blog, I use a LOT of humor to make my points. Sometimes a bitter truth is better accepted if it is wrapped in jest. The really cool thing about my Witness friends bringing up these verses is that I did not know about these particular revisions before our meeting and they match up wonderfully with my translation. I think it is ironic that they are excited about a new translation that lines up better with what other translations have said all along. I asked if he had a list of the changes and he didn’t. These were just some that he had come across himself. He mentioned that once the Bibles become more available, he will get one for me. I look forward to that.
KW: So are you guys going to be on some sort of Bible reading program where you read through the Bible in a year so you can figure out all the changes?
JW1: A year?
JW1: We have a schedule that if you do it daily, it takes six years to read.
KW: I’ve been on a program where I read for about 20 minutes a day and I read the entire Bible in a year. I don’t know how many years I did that in a row. I’ve read through the whole thing about 15 times. It doesn’t take as much time as you would think. I bring one of my schedules to you next time. My kids are doing it this year. They will have read the whole Bible by the end of the year.
The idea that you could read the whole Bible in a year was surprising to them. I kept telling them that it really didn’t take as much time as you would think. I wanted them to know that if my 10 and 11 year old children could do it, surely they can. I don’t know this for sure, but I would be willing to bet that the vast majority of Jehovah’s Witnesses have never read the entire New Testament, not to mention the whole Bible. I was nonchalant when I brought up my kids, but I knew they would be both impressed and possibly even a bit ashamed. It must be nigh unthinkable for a Jehovah’s Witness to fathom the idea that someone who is not a part of their organization cold read the Bible so much and even have “non believing” children doing the same thing.
We had talked about the new revision and various other things for nearly an hour before we opened our “Teach” books. We started on page 20 with JW1 reading paragraphs six and seven. The corresponding question at the bottom of the page for those paragraphs asks, “Why is the harmony of the material in the Bible particularly noteworthy?” As is my custom, I give my own answers instead of just reading the answers provided for me in the paragraphs.
I told him that I think the Bible is noteworthy because of the harmony evident even though there were roughly 40 authors spanning hundreds of years and living on different continents. I also told him that some atheists accuse Christians of circular reasoning for trusting in the Bible. Their argument is that Christians believe the Bible is the Word of God because it says it is. What atheists fail to take into consideration is that the Bible is not one book. It is 66 books. If it was one book written by one author they would have a case, but not so with 66 books and 40 authors.
We read the next paragraph and I did the same thing. I gave my answer instead of just rereading the paragraph as an answer. JW1 smiled and said;
JW1: You know what I appreciate about you?
KW: About me? What?
JW1: Other people we study with, they just read off the paragraph for their answers. You’re not that kind of guy.
JW: (Stunned) Is that a good thing? I guess it is because you just said you appreciated it.
JW2: It is a very good thing.
JW1: The book gives some examples, but there are more. You always give more.
I wasn’t quite sure what to think about his comment. He surely caught me off guard with the compliment. I have used this technique with other Witnesses and sometimes they get frustrated. They want me to just read the text and not think on my own and give my own personal answers. These guys are different and that encourages me.
After his compliment, we got to talking about dietary laws in the Old Testament and how some of the rules were in place before people discovered germs. God knew all along and these laws allowed the Israelites to live healthier lives. I told him I could relate to that because our church supports some missionaries who go into remote areas in other countries and dig wells for them. To get the people to understand the importance of personal hygiene, they took a microscope and some sort of projector to show the difference between clean and dirty water. Once the people saw the microbes on the screen, they understood.
I likened that to how God works with us. At one point, we are the people who have yet to discover some things, but God provides for us and shows that He has been protecting us all along. I told that story for two reasons. First, I wanted them to see that Christians reach out and witness to people too. I go to a good church which supports missionaries of all different flavors. Our ministry is an example of that.
Secondly, and more importantly, I wanted them to see that there is a lot more to reaching out to people than just studying religious material. Christian missionaries not only preach the Word, they also meet real physical needs. There is an old saying, “People do not care how much you know, unless they know how much you care.” The cold reality is that the Watchtower simply does not care.
This past weekend I was at the 35th annual Witnesses Now For Jesus Convention. One of the former Witnesses gave her testimony and mentioned what it was like in New York City during the tragedy of 9/11. People were streaming across the Brooklyn bridge, coated in dust and debris. This bridge is right next to the Watchtower headquarters. While everyone was out trying to help in some way, WTHQ was on lockdown. Even cab drivers were giving people free rides over the bridge, but the Watchtower, with its fleet of trucks, did nothing. That event was one of the things that confirmed in her mind the lack of love residing in the Watchtower.
One of the other interesting things of note about our conversation was that paragraph eight makes reference to Isaiah 40:22 and Job 26:7. Isaiah says that the earth is a circle and Job mentions that the earth “hangs upon nothing.” The book uses these two verses to prove that the bible is accurate where it mention scientific fact.
KW: I talked with an astronaut who actually walked on the moon. This was at a Men’s breakfast of a Church I sometimes visit. He told me that as he was standing on the moon and looking at the earth, this verse came to his mind.
JW2: (Awestruck) REALLY?
JW1: It was good that he actually knew about that verse from the Bible.
I then gave more context about the meeting because I wanted them to know that this particular person was a believer and gave a testimonial about how his experience as an astronaut confirmed his believe in God. Sometimes Witnesses draw the wrong conclusion about others who profess Christ. They just assume that none of us know anything. This story impressed them. The more examples I can give of reasonable Christians who know the Bible, the easier it will be for them to one day break free of the Watchtower.
Paragraph nine talks about how the characters, and even the writer of the Bible themselves, were very open and honest about their shortcomings. Secular historians, and other religious texts, omit these kinds of details. I took this opportunity to address the glaring lack of transparency among Jehovah’s Witnesses.
KW: I guess that is why I am so open about my own sin. I see it exemplified so much in the Bible.
I told them about a Mormon friend I have who is not use to this kind of transparency among people. Mormons are taught they have to be perfect so they never want other people to know they are not. When my friend was one her way out of Mormonism she visited another church where the pastor gave a message about sin and even gave personal examples. She thought, “Why is this guy preaching?”
My JW friends laughed, but I knew the point would sink in. Witnesses also have a public appearance they must live up to. It is unheard of for one Witness to ask another one to pray for them because of something going on in their life. You might end up getting called before the elders. It is a good thing to be able to point to the deficiencies of another religious group because the Witnesses will be able to recognize that. We just need to pray that God connects the dots for them so they can see the same problems in their own religion.
Please pray for my Jehovah’s Witness friends.