The Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses announced this week in a letter to all English-speaking congregations that they will indeed be stepping back on their Bible distribution work.
Where once sufficient supplies of the New World Translation (NWT), the official Bible translation of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, were kept in stock and offered openly to the public, only what the Governing Body is describing as a “modest supply” of the new 2013 revision will be kept in stock at Kingdom Halls.
The letter confirms, as reported before here on this forum, that Witnesses are no longer to offer their translation of the Bible as freely as they do their other Bible literature.
Those who use display tables to show what publications are available to the public are instructed to keep any available copies of the New World Translation out of public view.
Witnesses are told to be discerning regarding public distribution of the NWT, and copies of their Bible are to be restricted to those “who demonstrate sincere interest” in accepting their particular religious doctrine.
Prior to this, Jehovah’s Witnesses openly displayed and offered their New World Translation, as well as other versions of the Bible, to the public, often at cost and without regard to level of interest.
This probably just has to do with their Bible society work, i.e., distributing actual printed Bibles as they once did.
Apparently money is an issue. The above-mentioned letter spoke of “tangible” cost associated with the printed edition of the new NWT and thus a reason for their new guidelines.
Bible societies, as one knows, are in the ministry of getting Bibles into the hands of people. The Watchtower Bible & Tract Society, run by the Jehovah’s Witnesses, either no longer sees Bible distribution as a priority for their Bible society or no longer has the funds to get printed Bibles out to people as they once did or they believe that everyone can and will use the Internet for all their Bible needs.
And, of course, like GEddie points out, it might make for less non-Witness access to an extent. If you don’t want your “enemies” to read your Bible, make sure you filter the distribution process.
That’s exactly the case. I have three friends who are ex-witnesses. I did a lot of research on the JW organization, and it’s bad enough that their theology is terribly flawed, (Which is why they’re taught to bob and weave so well that Muhammad Ali would be jealous) but the leadership is (and always has been) very unscrupulous.
For a JW, lying to a non-JW when they feel it necessary is called “Theocratic tact” in a “Nudge, nudge, wink, wink…it’s for their own good” mentality. I kid you not.
Also, the Watchtower’s record on child abuse is absolutely horrific.
You can read the 2013 revision (as well as an older edition) on their own website (you might even be able to download it). So if they’re trying to keep the newest NWT out of non-JW and/or ex-JW hands, they’re doing a pretty terrible job. My guess is that this is an economic decesion. It’s probably very costly to manufacture and ship the Bibles, not to mention the cost of actually doing the revision. So for a smaller denomination like the JWs, they might have just decided their money could be better spent other ways, or they weren’t finding a strong enough correlation between people who received free NWTs and people who decided to join the JWs?
To them, that exact phrase means you have a good idea of what they teach and that you disagree. Most of them will usually back off after that. If they don’t back off, something along the lines of “I’ve got to go now” usually works. Tell 'em you have things to do, be nice to them. If they try to get you to have them come back (and they will) , just politely say “Please tell your Elders that I don’t wish any more visits”. They’ll send other people to your house on the next go round, tho. Count on it.
They’re finally losing people in droves. 2014 was supposed to be the end of this world. To a JW, that was Holy writ. Well, now, they’re saying God has given them “New light”. That only works so many times.
Isn’t this like the third time they’ve predicted the end of the world and been proven wrong? When they do this, how official are these predictions? Are they equivalent of like an Ecumenical Council document within the JW organization, or is it more of someone’s personal opinion? How do they deal with the false predictions failing?
But to stay on topic, I’ve read somewhere that the NWT is actually a good literal translation of the Bible, except in limited instances where religious bias clearly colors the translation of the text. Is this true, and how does this “mysterious” 2013 revision compare to mainstream Bible translations?
The Jehovah’s Witnesses have set several dates for the end of the world, in particular the years 1914, 1925, at the outbreak of World War II, 1975, and also before the 20th century came to an end. These are all official predictions since the only persons allowed to create such doctrines are members of the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses. As to what weight such pronouncements have among the Witnesses themselves, a recent article in their official journal states:
“Direction that we receive from Jehovah’s organization [a synonym for “Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses”] may not appear practical from a human standpoint. All of us must be ready to obey any instructions we may receive, whether these appear sound from a strategic or human standpoint or not.”–The Watchtower of November 15, 2013
No member outside of the Governing Body is allowed to create, speculate, reinterpret, or even question inwardly any teaching the Governing Body develops. Their official teaching is that the Governing Body is the only true mouthpiece of Jesus Christ, the only font of life-saving truth in the world today. Without their input the Bible cannot be understood for salvation.
How they deal with the failures? Basically denial and re-invention. When the world didn’t end in 1914, the Governing Body redefined their prophecy to proclaim that Jesus’ promised return happened in that year–though invisibly, which is why no one saw him return. They pretend the 1925 date never happened, even though it was published in a book you can still buy on Amazon entitled “Millions Now Living Will Never Die.”
The 1975 failure was blamed on the rank-and-file Witnesses, the Governing Body and current Witnesses claiming only those “weak in their faith” believed in the now infamous '75 date (and those of you who are old enough to remember, they all believed in it back then).
The Governing Body also published that Armageddon was coming before the end of the 20th century in several publications. But in one of these the official “end of the 20th century” comment that was published in the publicly distributed version of The Watchtower 1989 issue of January 1 on p.12. was reworded in the bound volume reference edition to read that the end would arrive “in our day.”
How “good” a translation is depends on who you ask. But, leaving the “limited instances” of “bias” aside, the translation wouldn’t have been revised in other areas unless there were problems–especially since the Witnesses touted the previous edition as the “most accurate” and “best translation” available.
The grammar of the previous version was, without being unfair, far from perfect. Notice this example for 1 Timothy 1:16:
Nevertheless, the reason why I was shown mercy was that by means of me as the foremost case Christ Jesus might demonstrate all his long-suffering for a sample of those who are going to rest their faith on him for everlasting life.
Compare that to the NRSV-CE (a version they called inferior):
But for that very reason I received mercy, so that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display the utmost patience, making me an example to those who would come to believe in him for eternal life.
And now note the revised NWT, 2013 edition:
Nevertheless, I was shown mercy so that by means of me as the foremost case, Christ Jesus might demonstrate all his patience, making me an example to those who are going to rest their faith on him for everlasting life.
If one compares all the updated language and style found in the NWT 2013 edition, you will note how the new vocabulary choices, new style, etc., match the NRSV (even many of the inclusive language choices). With no language scholars among the Governing Body, and the revision of the NWT said to have taken about five years. this seems more than odd in my book.
While I know some Catholics may not favor personal use of the NRSV, its renditions are still considered unique and scholarly. You can’t miss its “literal as possible, free as necessary” style no matter what you think of it personally.
How the “non-scholars” of the Governing Body came up with making the same unique choices of the “inferior to the NWT”-NRSV in a five year revision of the NWT is, well, in my opinion, not such a difficult guess.
Thanks for the information. I sort of marvel at how anyone could still be a JW in light of the failed predictions of the past, but I suppose people can find reasons to still believe in light of most any situation. I suspect their new guidelines about the NWT are probably financially motivated, and it will be interesting to see how the organization does or changes in the future if they are truly facing rapidly declining membership.