Christians embarking on discussions with Jehovah’s Witnesses should be aware that the so-called Bible the Witnesses use contains a number of changes introduced to the text for the sole purpose of supporting Watchtower doctrines.
The apostle Peter said concerning Paul’s inspired letters that “There are some things in them hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other scriptures” (2 Peter 3:16, rsv). Usually such “twisting” of Scripture is confined to interpretation—and that is what the Watchtower Society did for three-quarters of a century. They issued followers copies of the King James Version (or, later on, the American Standard Version, because it features the name “Jehovah” throughout the Old Testament), along with detailed instructions on how to make the Scriptures appear to teach that God outlawed vaccinations, that Abraham and the faithful prophets would be resurrected to this earth in 1925, that God inspired the Great Pyramid of Egypt, and so on. But there were some doctrines that were very difficult to derive from the King James Version and the American Standard Version, no matter how much twisting was applied to the text.
So, during the 1950s, Watchtower leaders went beyond interpretation by producing their own version of the Bible, with hundreds of verses changed to fit Watchtower doctrines. And, their New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures continues to be rewritten every few years, with additional changes made to bring God’s Word into closer agreement with what the organization teaches.
For example, instead of “the cross,” the New World Translation substitutes “the torture stake”—to support the JW teaching that Jesus was nailed to an upright pole without a crossbeam. Instead of “the Holy Spirit,” we find reference to “holy spirit” or “active force,” in agreement with their denial of the deity and personality of the Holy Spirit. Christ speaks, not of his “coming” again, but of his “presence” (which Witnesses believe to be invisible).
The New World Translation systematically sets out to eliminate evidence for the deity of Christ. Instead of falling at Jesus’ feet to “worship” him, people did “obeisance” to him. John 1:1 no longer says that “the Word was God”; here it reads, “the Word was a god.” Jesus did not say, “Before Abraham was, I am.” Rather, to avoid association with the “I AM” of Exodus 3:14, Jesus’ statement becomes: “Before Abraham came into existence, I have been.”
But the most widespread change in the Watchtower Bible is the insertion of the name Jehovah 237 times in the New Testament. Of course, it is appropriate for a translator to choose to use the divine name Jehovah or Yahweh in the Old Testament where the Tetragrammaton YHWH actually appears in the Hebrew text. But the Watchtower has gone beyond this by inserting the name Jehovah in the New Testament, where it does not appear in Greek manuscripts. One need only look at the word-for-word English that appears under the Greek text in the Society’s own Kingdom Interlinear Translation, to see that the name Jehovah is not there in the Greek.
To find specific examples of the distortions outlined above, consult the Subject-Matter Index. Two outstanding cases that are useful in demonstrating the doctrinal bias of the JW Bible are Romans 14:8–9 (where the insertion of “Jehovah” produces a logical non sequitur in the English text) and Hebrews 1:6 (where early editions say the angels “worship” the Son of God, but later editions change this to “obeisance”).
For a more detailed discussion, see The Jehovah’s Witnesses’ New Testament by Robert H. Countess (1982, Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., 136 pages).