New Jehovah's Witness Bible May Introduce Revised View of Death

The recent release of the New World Translation, 2013 revised edition, drastically challenges the century-held concepts on death previously published and currently preached by Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Nephesh and Psykhe

Their translation no longer renders the Hebrew word “nephesh” and the Greek word “psykhe” as soul, each and every time these words appear in the original text (as did the previous version of the NWT). This is in line with the long-accepted translation principles found in most Bible translations, namely that words can have different meanings depending on the context. Previously the New World Translation touted a “word-for-word” approach, claiming literal renditions offered more accuracy and better understanding of the original inspired text.

In the past the Jehovah’s Witnesses harshly criticized Catholics, Jews, Protestants, and Orthodox for using Bible translations that rendered these words not only as “soul,” but at times as “person,” “individual,” and “life.” After about a century of criticism, the Witnesses have acquiesced and followed the practice of mainstream Bible renditions in this matter.

Sheol, Hades now the Grave–One with Activity!

The new New World Translation has also ceased rendering “Sheol” and “Hades” as untranslated words. Instead they offer the renderings “Grave” when these words refer to the common grave of humankind, and “grave” with a lowercase “g” when an individual’s grave is meant.

This presents the most startling revelation of all. While the translation states that the Grave is a place of inactivity, in support of their 100-year belief in “soul sleep,” the new rendering allows for a new understanding.

But Jonah 2:2 in this new edition has the prophet praying to God, with the words:

Out of my distress I called out to Jehovah, and he answered me.
Out of the depths of the Grave I cried for help.
You heard my voice.

Previously the teaching was that the belly of the fish that swallowed Jonah could have ended up being his individual grave. The new 2013 edition offers the revised “Grave” with the capital “G,” demonstrating that individuals can pray to God in the common grave of humankind or in “Sheol.”

This is a startling move for the Witnesses. With their previous translation that could use specialized renderings to support their particular beliefs on death and soul-sleep. Now, their own Bible, as it does in other places like John 17:3, offers renditions in full harmony with mainstream Christian theology.

While it seems that Witnesses as a whole are unaware of these dramatic changes and what they mean, a few have published in personal blogs and comments on forums that the move away from the previous renderings will likely prove problematic if nothing changes in their doctrine. Others have theorized that these changes are likely to be employed as a stepping stone to changes that will align future Witness belief to more of a mainstream form of eschatology.

1 Like

Interesting. We’ll have to “watch” the Watchtowers and “Our Kingdom Ministry” for these shifts.

ISTM that nothing has changed.

A grave, whether capitalized or not, remains a place of dead human bodies and, well, human non-aliveness.

The Biblical terms Sheol and Hades allow for understanding as a place of human afterlife. Grave does not.

I’d be ecstatic if the WT abandoned its teaching of soul sleep, but it looks as though their new version contorts just enough to cling to it.

ICXC NIKA

According to Kabbalistic Jewish teaching, there are five levels of ascending consciousness of the soul. The most basic is the nefesh (or nephesh), which is described as the life-force that exists within the body. While the Hebrew Scripture does on occasion connect the nefesh to the non-physical emotions, intellect, and the spiritual plane, the nefesh still has its roots in the body whose life-force was breathed into it by G-d, as described in Genesis. The next and somewhat higher level of the soul is the ruach, whose basis is not the physical, but the emotional spirit. The third ascending level is called the neshama, which is the intellect and reason. The fourth plane is the chaya, which entails a nullification of the ego or self so that knowledge of the absolute truth inherent in the things of the world is realized. The final level of consciousness of the soul is the yechida, which is described as the essence of the soul immutably bound to G-d. The yechida is revealed at the moment of self-sacrifice or martyrdom to G-d, His Word, or His people.

I’m not sure how exactly the above connects to the JW concept of nephesh, but I thought you might like to have this information for understanding and comparison.

To those who have written to me, I repeat what I’ve stated in the first post of this thread, namely that the official teaching of Jehovah’s Witnesses has not been officially redefined. My posting is about how dramatic changes in the 2013 revision of the New World Translation (NWT) leaves a large hole that was filled by the previous choice of renditions, but now abandoned. For the first time Witnesses are left without an argument on a basic teaching, and this due to the careful work of their own Bible revisionists.

The Capital “G” Means Something to the Witnesses (Even Though It May Not to Anyone Else)

The text in Jonah 2:2 is earth-shattering if you are a Jehovah’s Witness. The official view is that*** no activity, whatsoever,*** can occur in the Grave or Sheol. None. Not even the activity that one reads about in Jonah 2:2 in the New World Translation.

If no activity can occur in the common grave of humankind, according to current teaching of the Witnesses, then the question begs answering: How can Jonah be spoken of as praying to God from the common grave of humankind (which is what the newly added capital “G” is now telling the Witnesses)? The previous rendition of the NWT allowed the official interpretation to be that the belly of the fish could have been Jonah’s *individual *grave. But it wasn’t the realm of gravedom itself. Thus it was okay to say that Jonah was praying from Sheol, according to them in the past.

This introduction of the change of the word from “Sheol” to “Grave” with the capital “G” means the following, according to the revisers of the NWT:

Grave: When lowercased, referring to an individual grave; when capitalized, the common grave of mankind, equivalent to the Hebrew “Sheol” and the Greek “Hades.” It is described in the Bible as a symbolic place or condition wherein all activity and consciousness cease.–Footnote to Jonah 2:2.

The footnote is clearly contradictory and problematic for the Witnesses. On one side they try to uphold their older view that the Grave is a " place or condition wherein all activity and consciousness cease," but on the other hand they admit that Jonah is praying not from an individual grave by from this place where there is not supposed to be any activity whatsoever.

Ecclesiastes 9–A Game of Pick & Choose

The Witnesses believe that the soul is unconscious at death. The reason? Ecclesiastes 9:5 reads:

For the living know that they are to die, but the dead no longer know anything.

They follow this up with verse 10:

Anything you can turn your hand to, do with what power you have; for there will be no work, no planning, no knowledge, no wisdom in Sheol (“the Grave”–NWT) where you are going.

‘Therefore,’ Witnesses usually say, ‘the Bible clearly teaches that the dead are not conscious of anything and that there is no knowledge in Sheol or the common grave of humankind.’

Of course by declaring that these two verses in Ecclesiastes are central for the Biblical definition of death, they skip verse 6, which says of the dead:

Never again will they have part in anything that is done under the sun.

Verse 6 denies the possibility of any type of life after death (“never again will they have part in anything that is done under the sun”), but the Witnesses ignore this text and downplay the context in favor of the two texts that they view as a primary definition for all other comments about death in Scripture.

Again I understand that some are confused by what looks like a little thing. It is for those outside the Watchtower. But having been abandoned to the Witnesses in my teenage years by my family (who somehow thought it would be a good thing to leave me in their hands), I learned a lot before I was able to devise an escape from them.

From what I’ve heard from those still associated (as well as a silent “response-of-denial” from those Witnesses who I’ve approached with this information), it is truly a paradox. I personally wouldn’t be surprised if they continued to ignore things (that is their way), but I am glad we can now use their NWT to defend the mainstream theology they so adamantly oppose.

While I am aware of this myself being, as you know, of Sephardic heritage, the Witnesses stick to an Anglicanized reading of the text when it comes to some expressions.

This doesn’t mean they aren’t aware of some Hebrew expressions and their original meanings, but as I illustrate above in my discussion about their peculiar use of Ecclesiastes 9, those two verses are used by them to interpret everything regarding death and the use of nefesh in Scripture.

In other words, Ecclesiastes 9:5, 10 cannot be contradicted in their minds. Any other Biblical texts must bend to fit what these two verses say, according to Watchtower demands of interpretation. Otherwise the Bible contradicts itself, they say, and if that is so then we are left without any other way to know truth–again according to their way of thinking.

[5OTE=Delsowal. 20915]To those who have written to me, I repeat what I’ve stated in the first post of this thread, namely that the official teaching of Jehovah’s Witnesses has not been officially redefined. My posting is about how dramatic changes in the 2013 revision of the New World Translation (NWT) leaves a large hole that was filled by the previous choice of renditions, but now abandoned. For the first time Witnesses are left without an argument on a basic teaching, and this due to the careful work of their own Bible revisionists.

The Capital “G” Means Something to the Witnesses (Even Though It May Not to Anyone Else)

The text in Jonah 2:2 is earth-shattering if you are a Jehovah’s Witness. The official view is that*** no activity, whatsoever,*** can occur in the Grave or Sheol. None. Not even the activity that one reads about in Jonah 2:2 in the New World Translation.

If no activity can occur in the common grave of humankind, according to current teaching of the Witnesses, then the question begs answering: How can Jonah be spoken of as praying to God from the common grave of humankind (which is what the newly added capital “G” is now telling the Witnesses)? The previous rendition of the NWT allowed the official interpretation to be that the belly of the fish could have been Jonah’s *individual *grave. But it wasn’t the realm of gravedom itself. Thus it was okay to say that Jonah was praying from Sheol, according to them in the past.

This introduction of the change of the word from “Sheol” to “Grave” with the capital “G” means the following, according to the revisers of the NWT:

Grave: When lowercased, referring to an individual grave; when capitalized, the common grave of mankind, equivalent to the Hebrew “Sheol” and the Greek “Hades.” It is described in the Bible as a symbolic place or condition wherein all activity and consciousness cease.–Footnote to Jonah 2:2.

The footnote is clearly contradictory and problematic for the Witnesses. On one side they try to uphold their older view that the Grave is a " place or condition wherein all activity and consciousness cease," but on the other hand they admit that Jonah is praying not from an individual grave by from this place where there is not supposed to be any activity whatsoever.

Ecclesiastes 9–A Game of Pick & Choose

The Witnesses believe that the soul is unconscious at death. The reason? Ecclesiastes 9:5 reads:

For the living know that they are to die, but the dead no longer know anything.

They follow this up with verse 10:

Anything you can turn your hand to, do with what power you have; for there will be no work, no planning, no knowledge, no wisdom in Sheol (“the Grave”–NWT) where you are going.

‘Therefore,’ Witnesses usually say, ‘the Bible clearly teaches that the dead are not conscious of anything and that there is no knowledge in Sheol or the common grave of humankind.’

Of course by declaring that these two verses in Ecclesiastes are central for the Biblical definition of death, they skip verse 6, which says of the dead:

Never again will they have part in anything that is done under the sun.

Verse 6 denies the possibility of any type of life after death (“never again will they have part in anything that is done under the sun”), but the Witnesses ignore this text and downplay the context in favor of the two texts that they view as a primary definition for all other comments about death in Scripture.

Again I understand that some are confused by what looks like a little thing. It is for those outside the Watchtower. But having been abandoned to the Witnesses in my teenage years by my family (who somehow thought it would be a good thing to leave me in their hands), I learned a lot before I was able to devise an escape from them.

From what I’ve heard from those still associated (as well as a silent “response-of-denial” from those Witnesses who I’ve approached with this information), it is truly a paradox. I personally wouldn’t be surprised if they continued to ignore things (that is their way), but I am glad we can now use their NWT to defend the mainstream theology they so adamantly oppose.

One thing i have brought out to JWS that they do not like is, they believe that Christ Jesus died, and when i ask them about Ecclesiastes 9:5, i ask what did Christ do for 3 days ? Their answer is, he preached to the spirits. Then i ask, does that sound like being conscious of nothing at all? They just walk away.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.