Watchtower Witnesses

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The Watchtower Society (WTS), is the governing body of the group known as "Jehovah's Witnesses". Around 1950 the WTS published its own version of the Bible, known as The New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures (NWT), it was translated by the New World Bible Translation Committee, who have remained anonymous. The reason given for maintaining anonymity is that they wish Jehovah to get all the credit for the work. Sounds commendable! However, the writers of the books of the Bible did not feel it necessary to remain anonymous and nobody gives them the credit for their work. In reality, another reason lies behind their quest for anonymity - nobody can check their qualifications.

Paradise... When?

And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise. Luke 23:43 (KJV)

The word "Verily" means "Truly" or "Assuredly". Now read the above verse as it appears in the New World Translation.

"And he said to him: 'Truly I tell you today, You will be with me in Paradise.'" Luke 23:43 (NWT)

Did you notice the very small, very subtle but very significant change which the NWT makes to the punctuation of that verse?

All reputable versions of the Bible place a comma before the word 'today', but the NWT places the comma after that word. Why? So the verse no longer contradicts Watchtower teaching.

When the Lord spoke to the thief He was saying the thief would be with Him in Paradise that very day. But that would mean some part of the thief, his soul, was going to survive crucifixion.

Since Jehovah's Witnesses (JWs) do not believe the soul survives death, in fact, they do not believe we have a soul. Something had to be done to this verse to make it fit their doctrine.

By placing the comma after the word 'today' the JWs can now teach that Jesus was not saying the repentant thief would be in Paradise on that day, the day of the crucifixion, but merely that Jesus was making the promise on that day. The thief would sometime, yet future, make it to Paradise.

If you challenge a JW. on this point they will defend the change by reading from the footnote to verse 43 in the reference edition of the NWT.

"Although WH [the Westcott and Hort Greek text] puts a comma in the Gr. text before the word for 'today,' commas were not used in Gr. uncial mss. In keeping with the context, we omit the comma before 'today.'
What the translators of the NWT. should really have said is:
"In keeping with our doctrine we have moved the comma from before, to after, the word 'today'."
To drive this fact home it would be useful to ask the JW to look at the other occasions when Jesus used the same expression - "Truly I tell you," or "Truly I say to you," (The same Greek word is used for 'tell' and 'say'.)

More than 70 times in the four Gospels the Lord uses that expression, some of those having the double 'Truly', ('Truly truly I say to you').

But on no other occasion has the Watchtower translators tampered with the position of the comma at the end of the word 'you'. Why not?

The answer is simple. No other occasion, where the Lord uses this expression, contradicts Watchtower teaching, therefore they had no need to tamper with the punctuation.

Clearly, moving the comma in Luke 23:43 has nothing at all to do with Greek grammar or context, if it did it is hard to understand why it is only moved in this one verse, and coincidentally, out of over seventy uses of this expression, this verse is the only one which refutes Watchtower doctrine.

Jehovah's Witnesses are taught that the things of God should be reasonable to the human mind.

They are taught - and they will try to lead you down this same path - to reason things out. They ask, "Is it reasonable to believe so-and-so doctrine?"

If they cannot understand it, they will not believe it.

This is why they have so much trouble with the doctrine of the Trinity, it is beyond the powers of human understanding - nevertheless, it is taught throughout the Bible, even though the word 'trinity' is not mentioned (as the Witnesses are quick to point out).

To end, let us look at Luke 23:43 from a different angle.

Given the circumstances, why, if the WT rendering is correct, would the Lord Jesus mention the word 'today' at all in that verse?

It would be illogical for the Lord to say "Truly I tell you today..." He had not made this promise to the thief yesterday, and He could not make it tomorrow. The only chance He had was during the crucifixion - that day!

So why would He say "Truly I say to you today," it does not make sense.

However, when punctuated properly it makes perfect sense for Jesus to use the word 'today' - because......

Jesus was letting the man know that he would be with Christ in paradise that very day.


Jim Cowen
Good Tidings Ministry.