Rendered from the Original Languages
NEW WORLD BIBLE TRANSLATION COMMITTEE
THE Holy Bible is Almighty God's written revelation given to mankind. It was originally written in Hebrew, Aramaic (an oriental language related to Hebrew) and common Greek. For the most part these are dead languages today, which fact requires the Holy Bible to be translated into modern languages for its life-giving message to be given to all peoples and nations and for it to become a living book to them.
The Hebrew and Aramaic portions make up the greater part of the Holy Scriptures and were written centuries before the so-called "Christian era", hence may be called pre-Christian. The most of these pre-Christian Scriptures were written in Hebrew, but as early as the first book of the Holy Bible Aramaic appears. The portions written in Aramaic include Genesis 31:47; Ezra 4:8 to 6:18 and 7:12-26; Jeremiah 10:11; and Daniel 2:4b to 7:28. Aramaic words are found in Job, certain Psalms, the Song of Solomon, Jonah, and Esther, and even in the Hebrew parts of Daniel. Job is strongly Aramaic, and Ezekiel shows Aramaic influences. Besides this, the Christian Greek Scriptures quoted some words in Aramaic, which was the language that Jesus of Nazareth commonly spoke.
The Hebrew Scriptures are divided up by the Hebrews themselves into the significant number of twenty-four books, and these make up the Hebrew canon of the Scriptures. They are grouped into the following sections: The Law (or Pentateuch), the Earlier Prophets and the Later Prophets, and the Hagiographa (or Holy Writings). Jesus of Nazareth is reported as grouping them under the following heads: The Law of Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms. (Luke 24:44) These did not include the so-called "apocryphal" or "deuterocanonical" books. Hence we confine ourselves to the Hebrew canon of Scriptures that the great Teacher of Nazareth accepted and approved, and we do not bring those other books into our translation, rejecting them as not inspired, not authentic, but spurious and not part of the divine revelation.
The arrangement of the books of the Hebrew Scriptures in order to total twenty-four is as follows, according to the Hebrew text: (1) Genesis, (2) Exodus, (3) Leviticus, (4) Numbers, (5) Deuteronomy, making up the TORAH or PENTATEUCH; (6) Joshua, (7) Judges, (8) the First Book of Samuel, (9) the Second Book of Samuel, (10) the First Book of Kings, (11) the Second Book of Kings, making up the EARLIER PROPHETS; (12) Isaiah, (13) Jeremiah, (14) Ezekiel, know as the major prophets; (15) the Twelve Minor Prophets (namely, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi), all these major and minor prophets making up the LATER PROPHETS; (16) Psalms, (17) Proverbs, (18) Job, (19) the "Five Me・gil?loth", called thus because of being written on five separate scrolls (namely, the Song of Solomon, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes and Esther), (20) Daniel, (21) Ezra, (22) Nehemiah, (23) the First Book of Chronicles, and (24) the Second Book of Chronicles, all these making up the KE・TU・BIM' or HAGIOGRAPHA or HOLY WRITINGS.
As ordinarily arranged in the Christian editions of the Holy Bible each of the books of the Hebrew Scriptures is isolated, so that the total of them runs up to thirty-nine books, and the order in which they follow one another differs from the Hebrew order, so that the prophecy of Malachi comes last instead of the Second Book of Chronicles. The latter arrangement and order is the one that we follow as being the most familiar and popular.
We have refrained from calling these Hebrew Scriptures "The Old Testament," because they are not a testament or covenant. The ground they cover extends thousands of years before the old Law Covenant that Jehovah God made with the Israelites through his prophet Moses. Moreover, the four gospel accounts of the Christian Greek Scriptures written by the disciples Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John apply to a time when the old Mosaic Law Covenant was still in force upon Jesus and his disciples, and hence before the new covenant came into force through the new mediator.
We have not approached the translation of the Hebrew Scriptures as "higher critics" and "modernists," who believe that the text of any individual book in those Scriptures is a hodgepodge made by several writers and was not written at the time indicated by the book or by the date or period mentioned in the Scriptures. We accept the books as written by the writers named or indicated and at the time indicated or assigned by other Bible writers or characters. We have faith in these Scriptures as being the canon of Almighty God's written Word. That means we have faith in their inspiration, the divine Author moving the writers of the individual books by his spirit or active force. We accept their authenticity, therefore, accepting the authorship and writership that Jesus Christ and his inspired disciples assign to those books. We thus accept them as coming from the source disclosed by God's inspiring spirit, and not by the higher critics and religious modernists of today, who undermine the authority of God's Word and weaken or destroy faith in it. Accepting the Holy Scriptures on this basis, we have approached their translation with a sense of reverence for them because they are Almighty God's recorded Word, "trembling at his word," and feeling a deep sense of our responsibility to render them into modern English as faithfully as possible, that with the help of this translation the reader may find the way to endless life in the Almighty's new world of righteousness.
AUTHORITY: As to authority to translate the sacred Scriptures from their original Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek, we do not look for such authority to any religious organization of Christendom or any religious potentate. The Most High God of the universe authorizes the translation of his Word to be made by those who are fully dedicated to him. Religious monarchs or religious groups and systems of men may authorize versions of the Bible for use in their religious congregations. This does not, however, make their so-called "authorized versions" the exclusive version that the great Author of the original Bible approves of having his true worshipers on earth use in any one language. Because of appreciating the need and value of the pure truth of the Holy Scriptures, his worshipers would seek to acquire the most faithful translation or version of that Word, If the available translations of the day did not meet the needs of the times, his worshipers would then be moved by the irresistible spirit of Almighty God to have a more suitable translation made as far as humanly possible. Therefore, in explanation of the appearance of this translation, it must be stated that it was undertaken because of the keenly felt need of the present-day situation, in order to fill the need that has been created by the trend of modern translators and their religious and higher critical bias; not by their failing to furnish modern translations of value, but by what they have failed to do in their translations toward our closest approximation of the whole truth.
It is self-evident that, there being many languages in use today, correspondingly many language-versions of the Holy Scriptures would be needed for readers in those languages. The divine command through Moses, "Be glad, you nations, with his people," and the later command through Jesus Christ, the anointed Son of God, to preach the good news of God's kingdom in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations, require his faithful witness-bearers to be also the translators of the divine written Word. (Deuteronomy 32:43; Matthew 24:14) God's peculiar blessing would accordingly be upon his loyal servants when translating it, in their efforts to make it a living, understandable Word for those who want to call upon his name, that they may be saved to life in the new world. It is with trust in his blessing and guidance by his spirit that we have been strengthened to go forward with the present translation. Moved solely by the desire to do and to make known his will and to serve his purposes, we have no wish to make name or gain by the publication of a different translation based upon solid principles of translation and upon a strict regard for God's Word and what it says and how it says it. The results of our labors should help each user of this Bible translation to measure somewhat how far the divine help and blessing have been with us in this work.
METHOD: It has been our endeavor to make this translation as literal as possible to the point of understandableness. The aim is to convey the flavor of the ancient Hebrew realm, its way of thinking, reasoning, talking, social dealings, etc. This has restricted our indulgence in paraphrase, our saying a thing as we think the original speaker or writer should have said it; and we have been careful not to modernize the rendering to such an extent as to alter the ancient background beyond recognizing it. So the reader will find quite a bit of idiomatic Hebrew. In cases the footnotes show the full literalism of certain expressions.
The Hebrew original is terse. The frame of its structure allows for this briefness of expression. However, in rendering the sense and feel of the Hebrew verbs of action and state into English it has not always been possible to render these with the same brevity, because of the lack of color of English verb forms. Hence auxiliary words that lengthen the expression are at times required to bring out the vividness, picturesqueness and dramatic action of the verb, and the point of view and the idea of time of the Bible writer. By such lengthening of expression we convey more fully the beauty and accuracy of the Hebrew text, even though at the expense of some brevity.
In our endeavor to preserve as much as possible the structure of the Hebrew original so as to express its peculiar charm, simplicity, manner of expression and forcefulness, we have preserved to a considerable extent certain verb forms, for example, rendering participles as participles with their thought of showing an action or state as already begun or continuing and under way. [*a]  In our regard for verb infinitives we have tried to express the Hebrew infinitive absolute with its impersonalness and indefiniteness as to time and with its accent mainly on the action or state described by the verb. [*b]
The Hebrew verb is very important but differs from our English verb. In English the verb has quite a number of tenses, the present, past, future, perfect, past perfect and future perfect, besides different modal forms, indicative mood, subjunctive mood and optative mood. The Hebrew verb has several conjugations, but only two "states" or "themes". These are the imperfect and the perfect states, rather than, as some say, the "present" and the "perfect" tenses or the "future" and the "perfect" tenses.
The imperfect state is often rendered with "should" or "ought to", in order to express a gentle command or obligation. A positive command has its own special verb form, but to express a negative command the imperfect verb is used with a negative particle. In most cases we render such negative command with "must not", [*a] although "should not" would grammatically be just as correct.[*b] Whereas the imperfect verb is kept imperfect in sense by the use in many cases of "should", "ought to," "let," "may," "might," etc., [*c] the perfect verb often shows the necessity of certainty of the action or state and is many times rendered with "must", as calling for something definitive and to be expected. [*d]
The future time of an action or state can be expressed in Hebrew by the perfect verb as well as by the imperfect. The context of the verb helps to determine whether it points to the future or not. In expressing pure future time we have stuck to the rule of always using "shall" with the pronouns "I" and "we", and using "will" with the the pronouns "you", "he," "she," "it," and "they". [*e] To express determination regarding the future we have kept the rule of always using "will" with "I" and "we", and using "shall" with "you", "he," "she," "it," and "they". [*f] In Hebrew the perfect verb used to speak of a future action or state as if it had already occurred and were past, this to show its future certainty or the obligation of it to occur. To express this in the case of the Hebrew perfect verb, we have not used the auxiliary verb "have" with the perfect participle of the verb, e.g., "I have done," which might confuse the reader. We have either used "must" with the infinitive of the verb as applying to future time [*g] or used the future auxiliary word "shall" with the first person pronouns and "will" with second and third person pronouns, reinforced by such strong words as "certainly", "indeed," "fairly," "simply," "just," "actually," or other forceful adverbial expression, e.g., "I shall certainly do." However, to express determination we use "will" with the first person pronouns and "shall" with the second and third person pronouns; and as these forms of expression already express determination for the future, they do not need any reinforcing words to accompany them.
In these ways we bring out the force of the Hebrew perfect, which would not be generally appreciated today. The ordinary customs today is to use "shall" and "will" interchangeably for all persons, with no other idea than the future in mind, some individuals, however, using "shall" in all persons with an emphasis of the voice to express determination or obligation. When we show the emphasis of the perfect verb in the present time, we prefix "do" or "does" to the English verb, as, "I do say," "I do make," "he does do."
The Hebrew states, imperfect and perfect, of the verb should always have their proper and distinctive force. In that way we get better at the truth and facts, and we avoid molding the thought of the Hebrew text to our ideas or doctrinal bias. With this in mind we turn the reader to our handling of an important verbal form today called "waw consecutive".
WAW CONSECUTIVE: For centuries this has been called "waw (or, vav) conversive". The misunderstanding of this has had a powerful and important effect upon translation of the Hebrew Scriptures for centuries. Waw (ו) is the Hebrew conjunction that basically means "and", and it never stands alone but is always combined with some other word. Very frequently this conjunction is joined with the Hebrew verb in the imperfect and perfect states to form one word with it. In this relationship waw has long been held to exercise a peculiar effect upon the verb with which it is combined and this effect has been described by the term "waw conversive", meaning the waw has the power here to convert the time of the verb from the one that its form indicates to the other time, from its imperfect force to perfect or from its perfect force to imperfect.
To quote Gesenius' Hebrew Grammar, as edited and enlarged by the late E. Kautzsch (1949) reprinting of the 2d edition, pages 132, 133: "One of the most striking peculiarities in the Hebrew consecution of tenses is the phenomenon that, in representing a series of past events, only the first verb stands in the perfect, and the narration is continued in the imperfect. Conversely, the representation of a series of future events begins with the imperfect, and is continued in the perfect. Thus is 2 Kings 20:1, In those days was Hezekiah sick unto death [perfect form of verb], and Isaiah . . . came [imperfect form of verb] to him, and said [imperfect] to him, &c. On the other hand, Isaiah 7:17, the Lord shall bring [imperfect form of verb] upon thee . . . days &c., 7:18, and it shall come to pass [perfect והיה] in that day . . . "
This has not only been taught for centuries in theological circles, but today it is being taught in the public schools in the instruction in Hebrew. To quote the Modern Hebrew Reader and Grammar (Part Two), by Wallenrod-Aaroni, of 1945, pages 190, 191: "In Biblical Hebrew, tenses were not strictly delineated. A flexible construction to aid in the indication of tenses is the Waw Consecutive, referred to in Hebrew, לגרום לאי-סדר(turning upside down), Waw Conversive. In describing a series of events in a continuous narration, this style uses the tenses of the verb in the following manner: When past events are described, only the first verb is in the past; all the others are in the future tense prefixed by the Waw. . . . Conversely, when future events are described, the verb in the first part of the sentence is in the future tense: all the others are in the past, prefixed by the Waw." Among examples that the above book quotes are Psalm 30:2: "I cried [perfect form of verb] unto thee, and thou didst heal [imperfect] me." Joshua 1:8 "This book of the law shall not depart [imperfect] out of thy mouth, but thou shalt meditate [perfect] therein day and night."
The endeavor on the part of students and translators to follow this idea has led to difficulties and caused confusion and doubtless led to mistranslation of the Hebrew text, and it has not always been possible for devotees of this rule to follow it.
It was Dr. Robert Young, the compiler of the widely used Analytical Concordance to the Bible (1879), who challenged this rule of "waw conversive". In his Bible translation (Sept. 10, 1862), entitled "The Holy Bible containing the Old and New Covenants translated according to the Letter and Idioms of the Original Languages", he discusses it at length in the preliminary pages before giving us his complete Bible translation, which does not recognize or apply the "waw conversive" rule. He pointedly shows the unsuitableness of the rule, that it is actually nonexistent in Hebrew, is unnecessary, exceptional, unexampled, unparalleled in any other languages, even languages closely related to Hebrew; that it is arbitrary and not workable with uniformity and so has been violated in hundreds of cases by the champions of it. He shows that it does not solve the apparent difficulty of the Hebrew sentence structure which makes the verb form correspond with the viewpoint of the Bible writer or narrator, the time position that he has taken in his mind. (See the introductory material following the preface of his translation, under such headings as " 'Waw Conversive' a Fiction - Not a Fact".) Dr. Young regards all Hebrew verbs as past or present in tense and rigidly renders them so, without any future tense. For example, Dr. Young renders Genesis 2:5, 6 as follows: "And no shrub of the field is yet in the earth, and no herb of the field yet sprouteth, for Jehovah God hath not rained upon the earth, and a man there is not to serve the ground, and a mist goeth up from the earth, and hath watered the whole face of the ground." Genesis 17:3-5: "And Abram falleth upon his face, and God speaketh with him, saying, 'I -- lo, My covenant is with thee, and thou shalt become father of a multitude of nations; and thy name is no more called Abram, but thy name hath been Abraham, for father of a multitude of nations have I made thee.' "
More recently another Hebrew scholar has taken a position similar to that of Dr. Young against waw conversive. In a work entitled "A Survey of Syntax in the Hebrew Old Testament", of 1951, the author(ftn: James Washington Watts, Ph.D., Professor of Old Testament Interpretation at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, New Oreleans, La., U.S.A. Our reference to Dr. Watts and his work does not imply that he can be held responsible for any part of this translation or approves of it in any way. It was done absolutely without his knowledge or collaboration, but we sincerely acknowledge the value of his above-mentioned work and the encouragement it has been in (we believe) a right direction.) offeres his strong reasons for objecting to the old theories regarding this use of the Hebrew conjunction waw: that the normal and correct developments in all other languages incline toward a usage that does not allow for substituting one verb for another; that in Hebrew no special form of waw appears with the perfect tense as it does with the imperfect; that champions of the theory themselves confess that there are Hebrew constructions with waw for which their theory affords no explanation; that such theory defines no clear way for making out what the force of the verb combined with waw is: that the logic of the theory is baffling and leads to confusion of mind and thus is proved unsound; and that the uncertainty that the theory's chief advocates betray about it evidences that they rest their conclusions on weak foundations.- Pages 84-100.
The above author argues that waw combined with the perfect form of the verb should be viewed as a waw conjunctive, which has, not a conversive force, but a correlating or co-ordinating force; that waw with the imperfect form of the verb should be viewed as a waw consecutive to show a sequence in time or a logical result, or a logical cause, or a logical contrast of this verb as regards the preceding verb. In all cases the perfect form of the verb should be rendered so as to set forth a single, finished or certain act or state. Likewise, in all cases the imperfect form of the verb should be rendered so as to set forth the action or state as partial, as yet incomplete or progressive or incipient. Even Gesenius' Hebrew Grammar (Kautzsch, English translation, 1949 edition), in footnote 2 of page 330, makes this admission: "The imperfect consecutive represents an action which is only beginning, becoming or still continuing, and hence in any case incomplete." Also the participle of the verb should be rendered to show a continuous state.
As illustrations the above author would render 1 Kings 8:12, 13 in the following way:
"At that time Solomon said [perfect]: 'JHWH said [perfect] that he would dwell in thick darkness. I have surely built [perfect] for you a house of habitation, a place for you to dwell forever.' " And 1 Kings 8: 22, 23: "Then Solomon proceeded to stand [imperfect] before the altar of JHWH in the presence of all the congregation of Israel, and to spread out [imperfect] his hands toward heaven, and to say [imperfect]: 'O JHWH, the God of Israel, there is no God like you in the heavens above or in the earth beneath, one keeping [participle] the covenant and the lovingkindness for your servants, the one walking [participle] before you with all their heart.'"
For our part we do not recognize the Hebrew waw as having any convesive power over the verb with which it is combined, even when causing that verb to have a certain mark (da・gesh´ for´te) or to change its tone or to shorten its form. In all cases we recognize and try to bring out the inherent meaning of the verb form, perfect or imperfect, even with waw conjunctive or waw consecutive. Thus, without following any arbitrary or artificial "waw conversive" theory, we can translate an imperfect verb into the past, present or future time according to the context and at the same time show its action or state as imperfect or uncompleted. Likewise we can translate a perfect verb into past, present or future time and yet show its emphatic nature and its being completed or its being a dead certainty, as if it were already accomplished when foretold or promised. We have strictly followed this principle, well knowing that it would lead to a result in our translation different from that of others who, to their own confusion, have followed the "waw conversive" theory of tenth-century Hebrew grammarians. We have found this course practical, making us more confident of ourselves as thus able to ascertain the right viewpoint of the Bible writer and a clearer insight into his thought. Naturally, too, it has led to consistency in the translation and hence greater accuracy of rendering. This serves to benefit the mere reader of the Bible, the student of it, and the preacher and expounder of it.
The frequent use of waw consecutive with the imperfect verb goes well in the Hebrew with great fluency, smoothness and simplicity, but to render it always in a like way in English would lead to some monotony for the ordinary reader. To avoid such monotony we have resorted to various English conjunctions to show the transition of the thought and to indicate whether the verb shows an action or state that is beginning, becoming or still keeping on and hence not yet come to completion. so in many cases at or toward the beginning of the sentence or clause we have used the following conjunctions or phrases, (a) to indicate temporal sequence: after a while, after that, after which, afterward, at length, at once, eventually, finally, further, furthermore, gradually, immediately, in time, in turn, later, later on, meantime, meanwhile, moreover, next, now, once, promptly, subsequently, then, when; (b) to indicate logical result: accordingly, and so, at that, at this, at which, consequently, hence, so, thus, to this, to which, upon that, well, with that; (c) to indicate cause: because, for, since; and (d) to indicate logical contrast: but, however, nevertheless, still.
Thus, although waw ("and") is very repetitious in Hebrew, we do not ignore it and leave it untranslated as if unnecessary or cumbersome or old-fashioned in style, but we express it by using transitional words or phrases with the sense that the Hebrew leads us to feel. We bring out the force of the waw in its relationship to the verb with which it is combined. So this simple word waw in the Hebrew is used to convey many a shade of meaning besides its mere basic meaning "and." This way of rendering waw, however, does not run contrary to our effort to distinguish different Hebrew words from one another by using different English words, while at the same time we try to keep down the various renderings of any one Hebrew word or expression into English to the least possible number. It must be admitted that it is not possible to hold to the same English rendering of a Hebrew word in all cases. but we keep in mind the value of comparing one Scripture text with another where the same original Hebrew word occurs, and so we try to keep changes of rendering a Hebrew word down to a minimum.
THE HEBREW TEXT:
- ↑ *a. See Genesiss 6:17; 7:4.
- ↑ *b. See Exodus 20:8 and footnote l; Joshua 1:13 and footnote a..
- ↑ *a. See Deutronomy 5:17.
- ↑ *b. See Leviticus 22:24. Compare Leviticus 23:3,8,21,25,35,36.
- ↑ *c. See Genesiss 4:7; Numbers 35:28.
- ↑ *d. See Leviticus 1:2.
- ↑ *e. See Genesis 4:14; Joshua 24:15.
- ↑ *f. See Genesis 4:23; 7:14; 13:16.
- ↑ *g. SeeJoshua 2:12,13.